(CBS NEWS) - A federal judge in Jackson, Mississippi said that the state's controversial "fetal heartbeat" law "smacks of defiance" after hearing arguments seeking to temporarily block the anti-abortion legislation on Tuesday morning, CBS affiliate WJTV reports. The law bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected in the embryo. This inaudible "flutter" in the area that will eventually become a heart can usually be detected by improved ultrasound technology at around six weeks of pregnancy.
Judge Carlton Reeves, an Obama-appointed federal judge, heard arguments from the Center for Reproductive Rights which challenged the state's recently-passed ban that outlaws abortions after about six weeks. The new law was signed by the governor on March 21 and is scheduled to be implemented on July 1. Reeves is the same judge who struck down Mississippi's 15-week ban late last year.
"Doesn't it boil down to six is less than 15?" Reeves said, according to local news reports. The judge later said that new law "smacks of defiance to this court."
Reeves said he would issue an order "soon," according to a spokesperson for the Center for Reproductive Rights.
That decision will likely be the first step in a long journey to attempt to bring the legislation in front of the Supreme Court to challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that protects a woman's legal right to an abortion.
Mississippi is one of six states that have recently passed extreme anti-abortion legislation aimed at the Supreme Court this legislative session. Three other states — Georgia, Kentucky and Ohio — have passed their own so-called "fetal heartbeat" bills, while Missouri just passed an omnibus anti-abortion bill that includes an eight-week ban on abortions in that state. Last week, Alabama's Governor Kay Ivey signed into law the most restrictive anti-abortion bill of all: a near-total ban on the procedure with no exceptions for rape or incest.
None of those bills are currently in effect. Kentucky's has been blocked by a federal judge and the American Civil Liberties Union just challenged Ohio's bill last week. Women's reproductive rights advocates, like the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, have vowed to challenge Georgia's "heartbeat" bill long before January 2020, when it's scheduled to go into effect.
In previous legislative sessions, North Dakota and Iowa passed similar bills, but both were struck down by federal judges and never took effect.
First published on May 21, 2019 / 1:05 PM
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