‘Heartbeat’ grows stronger in the House as abortion bill advances

Published 8:56 pm Thursday, February 28, 2019

Mississippi lawmakers are moving forward with a proposal that could create one of the strictest abortion laws in the country.

The House Public Health Committee on Wednesday amended and passed Senate Bill 2116, which would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, about six weeks into pregnancy. The bill moves to the full House for debate.

Rep. Becky Currie of Brookhaven supported a heartbeat abortion bill in the House earlier this month. 

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“I believe that life begins at conception so this was a no-brainer for me,” Currie said previously.  “Our hopes are with the Supreme Court changing, and with Ruth Bader Ginsburg probably retiring while President Trump is in office, the makeup of the Supreme Court looks hopeful for this bill.”

Sen. Sally Doty voted in favor of SB 2116 when it was in the Senate.

Similar fetal heartbeat bills are being considered in other states, including Tennessee. Conservatives want to push an abortion case to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge the court’s 1973 ruling that legalized abortion nationwide.

Mississippi enacted a 15-week abortion ban last year, and a federal judge declared the law unconstitutional. The state has appealed that ruling.

Critics have argued that defending a heartbeat law would be expensive. Currie disagrees.

“We looked at the cost of previous bills we have passed and so far we have spent about $50,000 on legal fees for other abortion bills,” Currie said. “You have to remember that we have hundreds of lawyers on salary at the Attorney General’s office so letting them earn their salary doesn’t bother me.”

Republican Gov. Phil Bryant has said he will sign the new bill into law.

Other legislation

Currie’s bill that would provide funding for mental health courts died in committee Wednesday. The measure called for $1.8 million to fund a mental health court system. Her bill that would provide authorization for a mental health court system to be established is still alive. House Bill 334 was referred to the Senate Judiciary A committee Tuesday. Doty is a vice-chair of that committee.

Legislation faces a Tuesday deadline to make it out of committee.

Currie has hopes that funding for the courts might be added to another bill if the measure creating the courts makes it through the Senate.

“The last eight years we have done nothing to help the mentally ill,” she said Thursday. “We need this. The Senate continues to kill it (the bill) and do nothing to help them.”

A bill that would ban labeling plant-based products or lab-grown animal tissue as “meat” passed the House unanimously Thursday.

Rep. Vince Mangold of Brookhaven filed a bill in the House that would have done the same thing.

Mangold, a farmer, said the law would be similar to the one that requires restaurants to label the country of origin of catfish.

“I don’t know about you, but I like to know what I’m eating,” Mangold said.

— The Associated Press contributed to this story.