With the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision Friday to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 court case that made abortion legal in the U.S., Republican leaders from across Mississippi said it’s time for the state with the highest rate of infant mortality to focus on the well-being of mothers and babies as strenuously as they had lobbied for protecting the unborn.
In overturning Roe, the court upheld a 2018 Mississippi law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
It’s one of many pieces of abortion legislation that has come out of the Mississippi Legislature in recent years as statehouses across the country started producing tougher abortion laws that were quickly challenged in court.
Many of those laws, including another one from Mississippi that followed the proposed 15-week ban with an even more limiting six-week ban, were written with the expectation of a challenge and hopes of one day landing before a sympathetic Supreme Court that would undo Roe.
And that’s what the court did Friday, siding with the state in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
While the court’s decision, leaked two months ago and made official Friday morning, doesn’t outlaw abortion in the U.S., it clears the way for states to impose their own bans on the procedure.
In a statement release after the court’s decision, Gov. Tate Reeves said being pro-life also means looking after babies once they’re born.
“We must remember that our work is not yet over. The pro-life movement must dedicate itself to ensuring mothers and their babies receive the support they both need during pregnancy and after,” Reeves said. “Despite what some may claim, Mississippi’s objective was never simply to win a court case — it’s been to create a culture of life across the country. Our state seeks to be pro-life in every sense of the word — supporting mothers and children through policies of compassion and working to ensure that every baby has a forever family that loves them.”
The Supreme Court ruling means an abortion trigger law written more than a decade before the 2018 law that led to the overturning of Roe would take effect in 10 days in Mississippi. It outlaws all abortions with two exceptions, to save the mother’s life or to terminate a pregnancy caused by rape — as long as the rape had been reported to police. With the exception of the pregnant woman, anyone who attempts to induce an abortion under any other circumstances could face up to 10 years in prison.
Rep. Sam Mims, R-McComb, who had a hand in much of the abortion legislation written in Mississippi over the past decade as chairman of the House Public Health Committee, said state lawmakers had a significant role in what is sure to be among the biggest court decisions in America since Roe 49 years ago.
“For many years during the Mississippi legislative sessions, laws have been passed to reduce the number of abortions through more restrictions,” he said. “Today, due to the action of the Mississippi House of Representatives passing HB 1510, the United States Supreme Court has overturned Roe vs. Wade, which will now allow the state legislatures to make this policy decision. Make no mistake, this decision is finally a voice for those who cannot speak for themselves and will save many lives.”
Mims went on to say that Mississippi, which has the highest rate of teen births in addition to the most infant mortality in the nation, must do more to help mothers and babies.
“We must find alternatives to abortions such as improving our adoption and foster care programs while continuing to work on funding our crisis pregnancy centers,” he said.
Mims’ statement, as well as those from other state officials all had a common theme: praising the overturning of Roe and calling for more social help for women and children.
“I am pro-life. I am also pro-child,” Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann said. “In addition to protecting the unborn, we must also focus on other ways to support women, children and families.”
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch said Roe is now “consigned to the list of infamous cases that collapsed under the weight of their errors,” calling the decision “a victory not only for women and children, but for the Court itself.”
“The task now falls to us to advocate for laws that empower women — laws that promote fairness in child support and enhance enforcement of it, laws for childcare and workplace policies that support families, and laws that improve foster care and adoption,” she said.
Mississippi’s two U.S. senators also gave similar remarks.
“We should recommit to building a culture of life where every child is welcomed and every mother is abundantly supported,” said U.S. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss.
“As we move forward as a nation, I believe greater attention should be paid to the needs of pregnant women and their babies,” added U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss.
Former Gov. Phil Bryant, an adviser at the America First Policy Institute, acknowledged his role in Friday’s court decision and said the next step is to protect life “at all stages.”
“During my time as governor of the great state of Mississippi, I was honored to sign the bill that will now restore American citizens’ voices in the abortion debate,” he said. “Now, our moral duty to protect life at all stages will be exercised by voters through their elected representatives at the state level.”