March 21 (UPI) -- Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a law Thursday that outlaws abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected, prompting constitutional challenges.
The Mississippi Senate Bill 2116 makes it illegal in most cases to get an abortion after about six weeks into pregnancy, at which point a fetal heartbeat is detected.
"We think this is showing the profound respect and desire of Mississippians to protect the sanctity of that unborn life whenever possible," Bryant said of the law. "It also protects, we believe, the physical and mental health of the mother. We here in Mississippi believe in protecting and defending the whole life of that child."
The law is one of the strictest in the nation as it only makes exceptions if the abortion would prevent the mother's death or if there is a "serious risk of the substantial and irreversible impairment of a major bodily function of the woman."
The New York Center for Reproductive Rights vowed to sue.
"The term 'heartbeat bill' is a manipulative misnomer. These bills actually rob women of their choice to have an #abortion before they even know they're pregnant," the nonprofit organization tweeted the day before Bryant signed the bill. "We'll sue Mississippi if @PhilBryantMS signs SB 2116 into law."
Critics say the law wastes taxpayer money on court costs when it's likely to be found unconstitutional. Supporters are hoping that as Republican-controlled legislatures push for such bans, the fight will end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, where they could try to overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion.