Nov. 21 (UPI) -- A federal judge has struck down a Mississippi law that barred abortions after 15 weeks, calling it unconstitutional and setting a strong precedent for other states.
Judge Carlton Reeves ruled Tuesday the ban "unequivocally" infringes upon a woman's 14th Amendment rights of due process and goes against Supreme Court precedents. The Gestational Age Act was passed by the Mississippi legislature and signed by Gov. Phil Bryant in March but faced legal challenges immediately. It included exceptions for medical emergencies and "severe fetal abnormality" but none for rape or incest.
Reeves likened the ban to the "old Mississippi bent on controlling women and minorities."
"The state chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade," Reeves wrote. "This court follows the commands of the Supreme Court and the dictates of the United States Constitution, rather than the disingenuous calculations of the Mississippi Legislature."
The Center for Reproductive Rights, which filed the lawsuit, celebrated the decision.
"Our victory today means that women in Mississippi will maintain the ability to make their own decisions about whether and when to terminate a pregnancy," Nancy Northup, president and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. "Today's decision should be a wake-up call for state lawmakers who are continuously trying to chip away at abortion access. Such bans will not stand in the court of law."
The judge's decision also means a nearly identical abortion ban in Louisiana won't go into effect.
Reeves said he's frustrated that states would pass such a ban when the Supreme Court set the precedent in 1973. He also noted the "sad irony" of men deciding reproductive rights.
"The fact that men, myself included, are determining how women may choose to manage their reproductive health is a sad irony not lost on the court," Reeves said. "As a man, who cannot get pregnant or seek an abortion, I can only imagine the anxiety and turmoil a woman might experience when she decides whether to terminate her pregnancy through an abortion. Respecting her autonomy demands that this statute be enjoined."
Bryant vowed to eliminate abortion in his 2014 state of the state address and got the ban passed earlier this year.
"I am committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child," Bryant tweeted after signing the law.
The Mississippi Department of Health, the defendant in the case, did not immediately respond to the decision.