What happens in Mississippi if Roe is overturned and how we got here.
Following the 2003 statewide election, the Mississippi Democratic Party held majorities in both the state House and Senate. In fact, Democrats in the Mississippi House enjoyed a supermajority. Haley Barbour, a Republican, was Governor and Amy Tuck, also a Republican, was Lieutenant Governor. Dyed-in-the-wool Democrat Billy McCoy was Speaker of the House.
In the final year of their terms, in 2007, Democrats joined Republicans in passing SB 2391, a bill that was signed into law by Governor Barbour.
That law states that once the Attorney General of Mississippi has determined that Roe v. Wade has been overruled by the U.S. Supreme Court and the AG has published that determination in an administrative bulletin with the Secretary of State, abortion would be illegal in Mississippi except where necessary for the preservation of the mother’s life or where the pregnancy was caused by rape following a formal charge being made to a law enforcement official.
Any person, except the pregnant woman, who “purposefully, knowingly or recklessly performs or attempts to perform or induce an abortion” in the state would face prison for not less than one (1) year nor more than ten (10) years.
Such a law is routinely referred to as a “trigger law,” as it does not go into effect until an action is taken by the U.S. Supreme Court and then by the Mississippi Attorney General.
It is educational from a political perspective to note that this 2007 law was initially passed unanimously in a Democrat majority state Senate. It then was amended and passed the Democrat supermajority state House 97-16. The bill was sent back to the Senate, and it received a 49-2 vote to concur with the House amendment prior to it being sent to then-Governor Barbour for his signature, which he provided six days later.
Democrats in 2007 were willing, in large part, to approve this “trigger law” on abortion for three reasons:
1). Many amongst their number were blue dog Democrats who knew where their bread was buttered in their district with voters who were strongly opposed to abortion and tended to side more with socially conservative policy views in such matters.
2). They believed their own Democrat Attorney General at the time, Jim Hood, would essentially slow-walk the “trigger” by saying that he did not believe a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court could be upheld, as the law states as a factor in the AG’s determination requirement.
3). Never could Democrats have envisioned that they would so completely lose their power in state government, especially in the House, where they enjoyed a supermajority. At the time, four of the eight statewide offices were held by Democrats as well.
Thus, a law that was perhaps meant to be merely a piece of feel-good legislation and a wink and nod to a growing conservative voter base is now at the center of what happens in Mississippi when – not if – Roe is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The leaked draft opinion from the U.S. Supreme Court that made its rounds last week appears to indicate that five of the nine Justices, a majority, are willing to side with Mississippi’s argument before the Court defending the state’s right to place parameters around the practice of abortion as it did when it passed the 2018 15-week abortion ban.
READ MORE: Leaked draft SCOTUS opinion in Mississippi’s Dobbs case points to overturning Roe v. Wade
“We hold that Roe and Casey must be overruled,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the leaked document that has now been proven to be authentic by Chief Justice John Roberts. “It is time to heed the Constitution and return the issue of abortion to the people’s elected representatives.”
Current Governor Tate Reeves, who was the Mississippi State Treasurer in 2007, made multiple national media appearances over the weekend to talk about the prospect for the state’s law to be upheld. He was also asked about the “trigger law” put in place in 2007.
“The trigger law was put into effect in 2007. I should point out, and I think this really point towards sort of the changing approach with the two political parties on this issue, but the 2007 trigger law was actually enacted with a Democrat Speaker of the House. It was enacted with a Democrat Chairman of the Public Health Committee,” Governor Reeves told ‘Meet the Press’ host Chuck Todd.
That Democrat Chairman of the Mississippi House Public Health Committee was former State Rep. Steve Holland.
Governor Reeves told Todd that the intent of the 15-week abortion ban in 2018, enacted when he was Lieutenant Governor, was to save lives if Roe was never overturned.
Reeves went on to say that if the U.S. Supreme Court’s majority does hold as the leaked document claims and officially overturns Roe, the 2007 “trigger law” would indeed go into effect.
Much to the chagrin of Democrats today, a Republican now holds the Attorney General’s seat. Lynn Fitch, the one who took the 15-week abortion case to the U.S. Supreme Court, appears ready to follow through with the 2007 law once the Justices issue their final ruling, assuming Roe is overturned and the power to regulate the practice of abortion is given to the states.
“Absolutely. That’s exactly what the law says,” Fitch told Y’all Politics on Monday when asked if her office was ready to comply with the 2007 law. “Once the final opinion comes down and we know what’s in there, we’ll certainly be taking a look and it does instruct us to write an opinion within 10 days upon that final opinion being delivered. So, we’ll be anxiously awaiting to see how it comes down.”
The yellow dog Democrats in the 2007 Mississippi Legislature are surely rolling over in their political graves.
Yet, as has been noted over the years, today’s Democratic Party is “not your father’s Democratic Party,” whether at the local, state or national level. The Democratic Party of yesteryear has abandoned any blue dog moderate that once gave them life within the political power structure in Mississippi, leaving many of their once committed members in the dust with the party’s sharp turn to the left.
That realization, at least in Mississippi, is the key reason why, four years after this “trigger law” on abortion was passed, voters sent Republican majorities to work at the state Capitol in 2011, and as of 2019, all eight statewide offices are held by Republicans. Both of these electoral events are milestones in Mississippi as prior to these elections Democrats ruled the state for nearly 100 years.
Now, within weeks, thanks to a majority Democrat Legislature in 2007 along with active, engaged pro-life Republicans at the time led by State Senator Joey Fillingane, the principal author of the 2007 law, and the continued focus on protecting life by Republicans when they gained the majority in 2011, abortion could finally be outlawed in Mississippi, saving an untold number of unborn lives across the Magnolia State for generations to come.
For now, all eyes are on the U.S. Supreme Court as they consider when to release their final ruling on the Dobbs case.