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Currie’s bill would set nation’s earliest abortion limitations

A Mississippi lawmaker who wrote a bill that would set the earliest abortion ban in the country is feeling victorious.

Rep. Becky Currie, R-Brookhaven, said the House would concur with small changes the Senate made Tuesday to House Bill 1510, the Gestational Age Act, which prohibits abortions 15 weeks after a pregnant woman’s last menstrual period. Senators voted 35-14 Tuesday to pass the bill, making small changes that lessen penalties for performing abortions.

“They changed a little bit of the language, took out some of the penalties. It’s still going to be against the law,” Currie said. “We’ll take their version in order for it to continue to live, we don’t want it to die.”

Gov. Phil Bryant is indicating he will sign the bill if the House concurs on the Senate’s changes.

“As I have repeatedly said, I want Mississippi to be the safest place in America for an unborn child,” the Republican governor said Tuesday on Twitter. “House Bill 1510 will help us achieve that goal.”

Should HB 1510 pass, it would become the first law of its kind in the United States.

Currie, a registered nurse who has worked in an OBGYN department, said about 200 abortions past the 15-week gestation period were performed in Mississippi last year.

“This bill could save 200 lives,” she said.

She called it a victory for those unborn children, but also for the mothers who suffer from complications from abortions in the second trimester.

Sen. Sally Doty, R-Brookhaven, voted in favor of the bill. She had previously voted for the legislation when it came before the Judicial A Committee, and said no amount of debate would have prompted her to vote against it.

“There’s nothing that would change my mind,” she said. “A 15-week-old fetus is a child. I had no qualms of voting for it.”

Abortion opponents nationwide are exploring whether the U.S. Supreme Court will approve laws that limit abortion before a fetus is viable outside the womb.

Diane Derzis, who owns the only abortion clinic in Mississippi, said in January she believes the bill is “clearly unconstitutional.”

Sen. Angela Turner-Ford, a Democrat from West Point, told The Associated Press after the vote she questions how the bill could be enforced. Gestational age is determined based on a pregnant women’s account of when her last period took place, rather than concrete medical tests.

Turner-Ford said this is why she believes viability is a better determination. Gestational age, she said, is “subjective.”

Sen. Deborah Dawkins, a Democrat from Pass Christian, called abortion a medical procedure, “that’s it.”

“To me, it’s a medical issue not to be interfered with by the Legislature,” she said.

But several Senate Republicans said it’s an issue of protecting life.

Sen. Angela Burks Hill, a Republican from Picayune, called abortions after 15 weeks “barbaric” and “inhumane.”

The only exceptions to the 15-week cutoff in the bill are a woman’s medical emergency related to the pregnancy or a medical abnormality that makes the fetus “incompatible with life.”

There are no exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

Senators amended the bill to take out possible felony charges for physicians who perform abortions later than 15 weeks. Those who do abortions after that limit would have their professional medical licenses suspended or revoked.

The bill also requires that physicians provide the Mississippi Department of Health with a record of the abortion, including the date and method of the procedure and estimated gestational age of the fetus, within 15 days of the procedure. Physicians who knowingly provide false reports would be subject to civil penalties or a fee up to $500.

Sen. Joey Fillingane, a Republican from Sumrall, said senators removed the language about possible prison time for physicians because, “I just don’t want to criminalize any behavior.”

The potential of licensing sanctions and civil penalties was enough, he said. Fillingane also said physicians’ groups opposed criminal penalties.