Abortion-rights activists are warning that Mississippi's fetal-heartbeat bills, and others like them, are part of an effort to instigate a U.S. Supreme Court case that could overturn constitutional protections for reproductive rights.
On Tuesday, state senators advanced Senate Bill 2116 out of committee. If it becomes law, it would "prohibit an abortion of an unborn human individual with a detectable fetal heartbeat except when a medical emergency necessitates."
The American Pregnancy Association says fetal heartbeats may be detectable as early as at six weeks gestation.
Planned Parenthood Southeast Director Felicia Brown Williams tweeted Tuesday that the bill "would essentially act as a de facto ban on abortion. Many, if not most, people don't know they are pregnant at 6 weeks."
State representatives advanced House Bill 732 on the same day, which would also prohibit abortions after a heartbeat is detected and subject any physician who performed an abortion after detection to license revocation.
"The Mississippi Legislature knows this is unconstitutional, and simply does not care," Brown Williams wrote in a follow-up tweet. "This is an insult to Mississippians and to this country."
'Again and Again, It's Been Found Unconstitutional'
Last year, lawmakers passed a law banning abortion after 15 weeks, even though Mississippi's only abortion clinic does not perform abortions after 14 weeks. A federal judge struck that bill down.
"Again and again, we've been told that we should pass legislation, and again and again, it's been found unconstitutional," Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson, complained to committee members during debate on the fetal heartbeat bill.
Laurie Bertram Roberts, a Jacksonian who describes herself as a "reproductive justice activist," said she thinks getting abortion laws in front of the courts is part of the point.
"These six-week bans have always been an attempt to push a direct challenge to Roe," she said, referring to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court