Two abortion-regulation bills die, but one survives

JACKSON — One abortion-regulation bill survived and two died at yesterday’s deadline in the Mississippi Legislature.

Supporters of the surviving measure say it could slow down or even shut Mississippi’s only remaining abortion clinic, which is in Jackson. The Senate Public Health Committee passed House Bill 1390, which would require any doctor performing abortions to be a board-certified OB-GYN with admitting privileges at a local hospital.

The bill advances to the full Senate. It is supported by Gov. Phil Bryant and Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, both of whom are Republicans.

“It is critically important, I think, to make sure we’ve got a certified physician there for that very complicated procedure, and if a complication does occur, that they have admission privileges or rights to a local hospital,” Bryant told The Associated Press yesterday. “So, I’m very excited about that. Look forward to signing it.”

Two other abortion-regulation bills died in the Senate Judiciary B Committee when Chairman Hob Bryan, D-Amory, chose not to bring them up for a vote. Yesterday was the final day for House and Senate committees to act on bills that had already passed the opposite chamber.

Supporters are trying to revive the dead bills by inserting the issues into other bills that are still alive, but it’s unclear whether they will succeed.

Bryan said he pocket-vetoed the bills because he believes they’d be challenged in court.

House Bill 1196 would have prohibited abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, unless the woman’s health was at risk.

House Bill 790 would have regulated the use of the abortion-inducing drug RU-486 by requiring the prescribing physician to be in the room when the woman took it.

Bryan said he has voted for several abortion regulations that have become law since he was elected to the Senate more than 28 years ago. However, he said states are limited in their ability to restrict first-trimester abortions under Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that established a nationwide right to abortion.

“It appears to me that it has virtually no chance of withstanding a court challenge,” Bryan said of the “heartbeat” bill

Terri Herring of Madison, national director of Pro Life America Network, criticized Bryan for killing the heartbeat and RU-486 bills. She also criticized Reeves for assigning the bills to Bryan’s committee. She said once Republicans took control of the House from Democrats after last November’s election, she had hoped abortion regulations would be guaranteed to pass.

“We are very disappointed after seven years of no pro-life bills passing the House, the House leadership was flipped this year and we anticipated the passage of five pro-life bills,” Herring said. “The House passed five bills and now we’re looking at the Senate and saying ‘Will the Senate now become the chamber of death for pro-life bills?’”

The bill requiring abortion providers to be certified OB-GYNs with hospital admitting privileges passed the Public Health Committee with no discussion and no opposition.

Dr. Beverly McMillan of Jackson, a retired OB-GYN and vice president of Pro-Life Mississippi, said anyone performing an abortion should have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

“If you’re going to do outpatient surgery that has the possibility of injuries, you should have a quick route to get those patients into a hospital. And if you’re a decent doctor, you’ll be the doctor that admits them and takes care of their complication,” McMillan said Tuesday at the Capitol. “I was into doing abortions back in the ’70s. Obviously, I’ve changed my mind, but I had admitting privileges. My patients, I had a couple of them that were admitted during the three years I was doing abortions.”

Nsombi Lambright, director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Mississippi, said if the bill becomes law, it likely will be challenged in court, and that could drive up legal bills for the state.

“Patients at the clinic are already provided very safe health care,” Lambright said.

She said patients with abortion complications can already be treated at the University of Mississippi Medical Center or other hospitals.

“So, it was a very unnecessary bill, very unfortunate that our legislators are not listening to women of Mississippi who voted down personhood,” Lambright said. “It’s just another personhood-type of bill.”

A “personhood” initiative, which would’ve defined life as beginning at fertilization, was on the general election ballot in Mississippi last November. It was defeated with 58 percent of the vote.

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