JACKSON, Miss. (BP)–Adding momentum to what some see as a national challenge to Roe v. Wade, Mississippi’s House of Representatives easily passed a bill March 2 banning most abortions.
The bill, Senate Bill 2922, passed 94-25 and bans all abortions except in the cases of rape, incest and to save the life of the mother. It now heads to the Senate.
Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, has said he would sign it and spark a challenge to Roe, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion nationwide. Pro-choice groups have promised to challenge it in court.
The bill initially had an exception only for the mother’s life, but the House amended it to add exceptions for rape and incest. That amendment passed, 62-56.
South Dakota’s legislature passed a bill in February banning abortions except in cases to save the mother’s life. It now awaits the governor’s signature. Other states are considering similar legislation. Supporters acknowledge that the bills likely will be struck down in federal court, but they hope the Supreme Court will consider the constitutionality of the bills and overturn Roe.
Terri Herring, president of Pro-Life Mississippi, said she backs the Mississippi bill but does have some concerns.
“We’re very excited about the possibility,” she told Baptist Press. “… We have refrained from pushing this type of legislation until we could see that the U.S. Supreme Court was ready to actually re-evaluate or overturn Roe. I think all experts agree that we are at least one justice short of being able to do that. Without knowing that God’s hand is on this legislation, I think we have to proceed with caution.”
Five of the Supreme Court’s nine justices are on record as supporting Roe. But several pro-life legislators in South Dakota noted that one of the pro-Roe justices, John Paul Stevens, is 85 and could be retired by the time the Supreme Court considers the case.
Mississippi’s pro-lifers, though, have other concerns besides Roe. In 1998, Herring said, Mississippi’s Supreme Court issued a decision (Pro-Choice Mississippi v. Fordice) finding a right to abortion within the state Constitution. Even if Roe were to be overturned, that state court decision would stand.
“Until we overturn our own Roe, we can’t hope to get this bill to the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the other giant,” she said.
Herring hopes to see the House and Senate form a conference and amend the bill to add a human life amendment to the Mississippi Constitution. That would remedy the ruling by the state Supreme Court. She also wants to see the bill’s exceptions for rape and incest removed.
“A child should not be put to death for the crime of his father,” she said. “I can’t support that.”