Abortion bill heading to governor

Abortion bill heading to governor

- A statewide ban will take effect if Rowe v. Wade is overturned.

By Bobby Harrison

Daily Journal Jackson Bureau

JACKSON – A bill designed eventually to outlaw abortion in Mississippi is on its way to Gov. Haley Barbour.

The state Senate gave final approval to the bill Thursday, accepting a version passed by the House last month.

Senate Public Health Committee Chairman Alan Nunnelee, R-Tupelo, earlier this session steered to passage a bill that would ban all abortions unless the life of mother is in jeopardy and in cases of rape.

Had that bill become law, it probably would have resulted in a court challenge to Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortions.

But the House amended the legislation to make abortions illegal if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.

Thursday, Nunnelee recommended the Senate accept the House changes to the legislation. It did with only two dissenting votes in the 52-member chamber.

“I think Mississippi is perfectly positioned to be the one to make the challenge,” Nunnelee said. “We just won’t do it in 2007.”

Anti-abortion advocates want a new test law banning abortions to reach the Supreme Court because President George Bush has appointed two new members who may rule against Roe v. Wade.

But House Public Health Committee Chairman Steve Holland, D-Plantersville, said that after talking with national anti-abortion advocates, he decided not to set Mississippi up to be a test because the Supreme Court lacks the votes to overturn the decision.

The bill also would tighten up language to make it more difficult for a minor to go to court in opposition of her parents to obtain an abortion. And the bill would require medical staff to offer the woman a chance to hear the fetus’ heartbeat and see an image of the fetus on a sonogram before performing the procedure.

Nunnelee said the sonogram requirement is a major victory in the battle to curtail the number of abortions in the state.

He said “incremental steps” that have placed additional restrictions on abortions have been successful. In 1991, more than 8,000 abortions were performed in the state compared to fewer than 3,500 last year.

“I think what we are doing is effective in reducing the number of abortions,” he said.

Contact Daily Journal Jackson Bureau reporter Bobby Harrison at (601) 353-3119 or bobby.harrison@djournal.com.