By Bobby Harrison/Daily Journal
JACKSON – Legislation designed to challenge the Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion passed the Mississippi House on Wednesday.
The legislation, which passed 78-36, also could require women wanting an abortion, including victims of rape and incest, to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound, conceded its primary author, Judiciary B Chair Andy Gipson, R-Braxton.
The bill says if a heartbeat is detected then the abortion would be prohibited. Though he did admit that under current court rulings that prohibition would be considered unconstitutional.
“Part of the bill is a (court) challenge to Roe v. Wade,” Gipson said.
The bill gives the state Board of Health the authority to develop rules on how the heartbeat would be detected. But Gipson admitted that the only way to detect the heartbeat before the fifth of sixth week of a pregnancy is through the invasive procedure.
“You tell me why can’t you find a measure less extreme than having a device 10 inches in length and three inches wide” inserted into a woman?” asked Adrienne Wooten, D-Jackson. She called the procedure “state-sanctioned rape.”
The emotional debate lasted for more than one hour.
Rep. Rita Martinson, R-Madison, said the transvaginal ultrasound was less invasive than an abortion procedure. She said women could avoid abortions if they are responsible.
“We’re the ones who remove our pants. Are we not?” she asked.
Opponents of the bill also said it was almost the same as the personhood initiative defeated by the state’s voters in November. It referred to an “unborn human individual.” But Gipson said, “this is not personhood” and had nothing to do with contraceptives as some said the personhood proposal did.
Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton, created some controversy when he said he was going to limit debate on the proposal because of the high number of bills the House had to deal with before a deadline today. But later Gunn said he was just recommending debate be limited.