HB 1295 is the 2020 abortion related bill in the Mississippi Legislature. The bill has made it through the House where it originated and was passed by a vote of 33 to 11 on the Senate floor today.

This bill would prevent an abortion for the reasons of race, gender or genetic abnormality unless there is a medical emergency. The bill contains practice and civil penalties for the physician that breaks the law and performs one of these types of abortions.

While race and gender are self-explanatory, the bill does not clarify what is considered as a “genetic abnormality.”

Senator Joey Fillingane (R) used the example of down syndrome while on the floor answering questions. He said in America over 60 percent of down syndrome babies are aborted. He said the rates in European countries are even higher, such as Iceland which approaches 100 percent.

This is not the only bill to restrict abortions lawmakers have attempted to make law over the last few years. The most recent previous bills have been tied up in the court system since their passage. There was a push for a 15-week abortion (HB 1510) ban in 2018, and in 2019, the Legislature passed a 6-week abortion (SB 2116) ban also known as the Heartbeat Bill. Prior to that, in 2016, the House and the Senate both passed several bills that were related to limiting abortion options, HB 489, HB 519, and SB 2238.

The bill would not put legal penalties on the woman asking for the abortion; only the doctor would be prosecuted.

In the bill, if a doctor knowingly or intentionally violates the prohibitions they could be convicted of a felony and could face up to 10 years in prison and no less than one year with a fine of $500. The same doctor would also have their medical license in Mississippi suspended or revoked.

Sen. Joey Fillingane

“We are simply saying all these rights that have been won over the years in the area of racism or sexism should be applied to the unborn in Mississippi,” said Fillingane.

Fillingane said Attorney General Lynn Fitch is supportive of the legislation. Her office would handle the cases against doctors who violate the statutes that this bill puts in place.

There was an amendment offered to remove the reverse repealer that was added by the House.

Sen. Derrick Simmons (D) offered his own amendment to the bill that strikes all the language in the bill and inserts his own.

In leu thereof the following:

“A woman’s reproductive decisions shall be made by the woman, her family, her physician and her god.”  

Fillngane called this a “killing” amendment.

“The language in this amendment is very clear, we all should agree that reproductive decisions should be made by a woman and not her doctor. These difficult decisions should be made by a woman, family, physician and their god,” said Simmons.

Sen. Derrick Simmons

Sen. David Jordan (D) argued against the amendment asking, “What about the child, do they not still have a right to be born?”

Simmons said those decisions should be made by the people involved, not by the government.

The amendment failed by a roll call vote 34 to 11.

Another amendment was offered by Senator Angela Turner-Ford (D) to delete language that would hold doctors criminally liable.

“I want to protect a physician who has encountered a maternal patient that has ill intentions,” said Turner-Ford.

Sen. Angela Turner-Ford

She said she is glad that the writers have tried to protect the rights of the unborn as it pertains to race, gender, and medical difficulties.

Fillingane again opposed the amendment and said, “You’re either for or against protecting the unborn.” He believes that there is plenty of opportunity for a doctor to fight such allegations if they are falsely accused.

The bill was held on a motion to reconsider but will soon go for concurrence or non-concurrence in the House. Fillingane indicated that he expects members to approve the bill sending it to the Governor to be made law.