On March 19, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed House Bill 1510, creating the earliest abortion ban in the nation. This bill, also known as the Gestational Age Act, effective immediately, prevents women from receiving legal abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.
Though it is nearly impossible for me to be shocked by issues of reproductive rights coming under fire, again, this bill is slightly different in nature. It transcends typical pro-life and pro-choice arguments. And instead calls into question separate arguments concerning women’s health, both mental and physical.
I look at this not only as a woman, but as someone who cares deeply about the health of those around me and the quality of resources available to them. That is why I find this “Gestational Age” Act to be a complete atrocity. The officials of Mississippi should be ashamed of themselves for the inhumane state of women’s health they have provided for their residents.
The first ethical issue with the new law is its extreme exceptions for the 15 week ban. Exceptions only stand for cases of “severe fetal abnormality” or if the particular case is deemed a medical emergency. This presents a myriad of problems and unanswerable questions regarding who determines these cases as such, as well as a number of gaps in the law. These gaps include, but are not limited to, cases of rape and incest, which are classified as non-exceptions according to the law.
This serves as an extremely volatile aspect of the law. It essentially disregards the mental well-being of females under these types of stressors. It says, “Yes, you were the victim of a heinous crime, but after 15 weeks we will run out of sympathy for you and your unfortunate situation.” A continuation of the original unwanted assault occurs through the abuse of the law.
Beyond that, doctors have also been warned of this law and its strict and restrictive nature. According to the Cable News Network (CNN), “Doctors who perform abortions after 15 weeks will be required to submit reports detailing the circumstances. If they knowingly violate the law, their medical licenses will be suspended or revoked in Mississippi. If they falsify records, they will face civil penalties or be forced to pay fines of up to $500.”
However, the biggest issue I found while researching this new law was the highly restrictive access to abortions in the state of Mississippi. The entire state has one clinic. A single clinic for its 2.98 million residents, a little over half of which are female, according to the 2017 U.S. Census. That is an embarrassment to the term “public health” and an abuse of power against a small demographic, presented with an already difficult situation.
In fact, this new law is already arbitrary because of this one clinic situation. The single clinic Mississippi has, The Jackson Women’s Health Organization, already had a 16 week cutoff date for abortions. Dipping below the state’s previous and original 20 week abortion ban.
The inconvenience is only compounded by the fact that Mississippi is the only state where abortion performing physicians must be board certified, or at least board eligible obstetrician-gynecologists. In-state hospitals will not perform abortions either, and the Jackson clinic requires a 24-hour waiting period before procedures can be done.
To interpret this new law as a pro-life movement would be a gross understatement. It is beyond naive for a person to provide some sort of guilt trip like, “Well, you had 15 weeks to get your life together,” to victims of rape or incest, or any woman who is faced with this life changing decision.
About 22.6 percent of women, ages 18 to 64 living in Mississippi, fall below the poverty line, according to the latest state reports. Worries of feeding oneself is already enough, worries of feeding another human being is incomprehensible.
Their public health system has failed them. It demands they travel miles upon miles to receive an invasive and expensive procedure at the one facility available to them, that is, if it is before the ban date. If it is not, then fault is ultimately put on the woman, regardless of her situation.
Simply put, this is an attack on women’s health by a state governance obsessed with pushing their own agenda forward. If state officials long for women to take proper care of themselves during tough times of unexpected pregnancy and possible abortion cases, then they need to be proponents of not only bans but also availability to resources.