By Jeff Amy/The Associated Press
JACKSON — Mississippi’s Republican governor had some new harsh words for proponents of legalized abortion this week, saying, “their one mission in life is to abort children, is to kill children in the womb.”
Gov. Phil Bryant, who recently signed a new abortion restriction law, made the comments Tuesday on the Internet talk show of Tim Wildmon, president of the American Family Association.
The governor was discussing the measure, which would require doctors performing abortions at a clinic to be a certified OB-GYN with admitting privileges at a local hospital. It takes effect July 1.
“The hypocrisy of the left, that now tried to kill this bill, that says I should have never signed it, the true hypocrisy is that their one mission in life is to abort children, is to kill children in the womb,” Bryant told Wildmon. “And it doesn’t really matter, they don’t care that if the mother’s life is in jeopardy, that if something goes wrong, a doctor can’t admit them to a local hospital, that he’s not even board-certified.”
During his campaign last fall, Bryant co-chaired with Wildmon’s father, American Family Association founder Donald Wildmon, an effort to pass a state constitutional amendment saying life begins at fertilization. Supporters of that “personhood” amendment believed it would provide a new avenue to challenge legalized abortion.
Days before 58 percent of Mississippi voters rejected the measure, Bryant appeared at a pro-personhood rally in Tupelo with Donald Wildmon and U.S. Rep Alan Nunnelee, a Tupelo Republican. There, Bryant said that if voters were to reject the amendment, “Satan wins.” He called the campaign “a battle of good and evil of Biblical proportion.”
Rep. Bobby Moak, the House Democratic leader, said Wednesday that Bryant’s comments went “totally, totally too far,” especially because Mississippi voters had rejected the personhood amendment. Moak said he felt that bills introduced in the Mississippi Legislature this year to restrict abortion were ignoring the will of voters. He said that’s why he voted against them, though he previously had voted for abortion restrictions.
“He is way off base, and I will tell him that to his face,” Moak said.
Other versions of personhood legislation failed, and a bill that would bar abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected is likely to die Thursday for lack of action. The measure Bryant signed, House Bill 1390, passed the House 80-37 and the Senate 45-6.
Wednesday, when questioned on Bryant’s comments about opponents, Bryant spokesman Mick Bullock said they “were directed at those who insist that the unborn do not have the right to life.”
Bryant reiterated during Tuesday’s 14-minute interview that his goal is to end legalized abortion in the state.
“I clearly said I want to end abortion in Mississippi,” he said. “That’s exactly what I said, and that’s what I intend to do.”
The interview also included Family Research Council President Tony Perkins.
After Bryant made his comments about the motivation of legalized abortion proponents, Perkins added that “the driving factor is profit for many of them. It’s all about money.”
The owner of Mississippi’s lone abortion clinic in Jackson has said the clinic uses OB-GYNs and has one staffer with admitting privileges. Those privileges aren’t easy for doctors to get, either because they live out of state or because some religious-affiliated hospitals might be unwilling to associate themselves with people who perform elective abortions. She also argues that privileges are unnecessary, because the clinic has an agreement to transfer patients if complications develop.
The clinic owner has said she will sue to block the law if doctors can’t get privileges. Similar laws have been upheld in other states, making it possible that Mississippi’s last abortion clinic will close.
Bryant said the people who perform abortions in Mississippi live outside the state. He said the law would regulate “fly-in abortionists.”
A Methodist, Bryant told Wildmon Tuesday that he felt motivated by a sense of religious mission.
“The good Lord has blessed me with the opportunity,” Bryant said. “I have prayed so many times, ‘Lord, let someone else do this, find someone smarter, more prepared to be governor … But the Lord kept saying, I want you to go there. And I’ve realized why, that there’s things I have to do.”