The Life Equality Act passed the state Senate in a 33–11 vote on Wednesday and is returning to the House for final approval.
The measure would prohibit abortions that are motivated by the unborn baby's race, sex or genetic anomaly; it includes penalties and potential jail time for the abortionists who violate it.
The bill would require the physician to ask the woman if she was seeking the abortion because of the race, gender or genetic abnormality of her preborn child. If the woman says yes, the physician would be prohibited from performing the prenatal homicide.
The bill would set a prison sentence of up to 10 years for any physician or health care worker who knowingly violates the ban. It also specifies that the woman obtaining the abortion would not be punished. The ban would not apply if the mother faces a medical emergency due to her pregnancy.
"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," claimed Republican state senator Joey Fillingane, one of the lead advocates of the bill. "They should have the same protection in the womb," he said.
Other states have been sued over similar laws, and opponents question whether Mississippi is inviting another lawsuit. "There are some fights that are just worth fighting," said Republican senator Jenifer Branning on Wednesday.
Democratic senator Derrick Simmons opposed the bill and sought an amendment stating, "A woman's reproductive decisions shall be made by the woman, her family, her physician and her God." Senators rejected that amendment in a vote that fell mostly along party lines. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) says that "The intervention of legislative bodies into medical decision-making is inappropriate, ill-advised and dangerous."
The Guttmacher Institute — a pro-abortion research group — reports that nine states presently ban abortion because of the sex of the fetus, two ban it because of race and two because of genetic anomaly. Missouri is the only state that will ban all three. Kentucky also attempted a ban on killing preborn children for reasons of race, sex and genetic imperfection — but their law has been put on hold via a court order.
In the post-Roe v. Wade era, Mississippi has pushed some of the strongest pro-life measures in the nation.
Last year, state lawmakers passed a heartbeat bill that bans abortions after six weeks' gestation, and in 2018 a bill passed banning abortions after 15 weeks. Federal court rulings prevented both from going into effect after challenges by abortion supporters.
LifeNews reports that Mika Hartman and her son Hudson, who has Down syndrome, have urged lawmakers to support the Life Equality Act. Hartman said she was pressured to abort her son because of his disability, but today he is a happy and healthy toddler.
Hartman's story is not uncommon. Parents of children with disabilities frequently say they felt pressured by doctors and/or genetic counselors to abort their preborn children. Statistics from the Life Institute say that anywhere from 70% to 98% of children with Down syndrome are killed before birth in the United States and European countries.