Mississippi's last remaining clinic doesn't perform 20-week abortions; lawmakers ban them anyway

The measure approved by the state House and Senate also contains no exceptions for rape or incest

Published March 11, 2014 5:26PM (EDT)

Anti-abortion advocates in Jackson stand outside Mississippi's only abortion clinic on June 27.        (AP/Rogelio V. Solis)
Anti-abortion advocates in Jackson stand outside Mississippi's only abortion clinic on June 27. (AP/Rogelio V. Solis)

Mississippi has moved to ban abortion at 20 weeks, even though the state's last remaining clinic only performs the procedure up to 16 weeks.

The Mississippi House of Representatives voted last month to approve the measure, which contains no exceptions for rape or incest and only a narrow exception in cases where the person's life is in danger. The Senate voted Tuesday to approve the measure, also without an exception for rape or incest.

Diane Derzis, who owns Jackson Women's Health Organization, told the Associated Press last month that the bill would have no impact on the operations of her clinic.

Rep. Toby Barker, a Republican who identifies as "pro-life," offered an amendment to the bill to create an exception for pregnancies that are the result of rape or incest, but the proposal was rejected. "I think there are situations where people struggle through it and there's some gray area," Barker said of pregnancies in these cases.

Mississippi isn't the first state to approve a measure that has nothing to do with the actual reproductive health landscape in the state. Less than 25 percent of providers offer abortion services after 20 weeks, but that hasn't stopped nearly a dozen states from introducing bans on the procedure. Several states, including Texas, have unconstitutional bans on the books known as "trigger laws" that are meant to go into effect if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned.

Reproductive rights advocates in the state have called the measure what it is: a stunt, but a harmful stunt.

“Mississippi women and families don’t need more over-regulation, more restrictions, and more potential lawsuits around abortion simply because politicians are hoping to score political points at the expense of the women of our state,” Felicia Brown-Williams, Director of Public Policy for Planned Parenthood Southeast, said in a statement on the measure.

Correction: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that providers in Kansas did not perform abortions up until the legal limit as dictated under the law; providers in Overland Park and Wichita perform the procedure up until the legal limit of 21 weeks. Salon regrets the error.


By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at kmcdonough@salon.com.

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Abortion Abortion Rights Mississippi Reproductive Health Reproductive Rights