March 20 (UPI) -- A federal judge on Tuesday temporarily blocked Mississippi's new abortion law -- the most restrictive in the country -- saying it's likely to be found unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge Carlton Reeves issued the temporary restraining order in response to a lawsuit filed on behalf of the Jackson Women's Health Organization, the state's only abortion provider. The clinic only performs the procedure through the 16th week of pregnancy.
On Monday, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed the new law, which bans abortion after the 15th week of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest. The law adds an exception for medical emergencies or severe fetus abnormalities. Physicians who perform abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy will face a $500 fine and be subject to having their medical license revoked.
Rob McDuff, the lawyer representing the abortion clinic, said the ban was unconstitutional, citing the landmark Supreme Court case Roe vs. Wade. He sought the restraining order because the new Mississippi law would have prevented a 15-weeks pregnant woman from getting the procedure, which was scheduled Tuesday.
"The law threatens immediate, irreparable harm to Mississippians' abilities to control their 'destiny and ... body.' This is especially true for one woman scheduled to have a 15-week abortion this afternoon. A brief delay in enforcing a law of dubious constitutionality does not outweigh that harm, and in fact serves the public's interest in preserving the freedom guaranteed by the United States Constitution," Reeves said in his order.
But abortion opponents praised the governor's signing of the bill Monday and Jameson Taylor of the Mississippi Center for Public Policy argued that it is legally sound.
"States, along with the Supreme Court, have rejected the rigid framework of Roe v. Wade and are acknowledging the sensibility of reasonable restrictions on abortion aimed at protecting maternal health and the life of the unborn," Taylor said. "Public opinion agrees, and a majority of voters support commonsense laws that would make abortion safer and rarer."