Mississippi’s governor signed into law on Monday the most restrictive abortion measure in the United States, which abortion rights advocates have vowed to contest in court as unconstitutional.
Republican Governor Phil Bryant said he was proud to sign the bill banning abortion after 15 weeks of gestation with some exceptions, according to a statement from spokesman Knox Graham.
“I am committed to making Mississippi the safest place in America for an unborn child, and this bill will help us achieve that goal,” Bryant said.
The law takes effect immediately. Previous Mississippi law banned abortion at 20 weeks after conception, similar to limits in 17 other states.
Abortion rights advocates have said the measure targets the state’s only abortion provider, the Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The clinic, which provides abortions for up to 16 weeks after conception, has said it will fight the measure in court.
Julie Rikelman, senior director of litigation at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which will handle the challenge, said before the signing that the law followed hundreds of restrictions on abortion passed by state legislatures in recent years.
The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly affirmed a woman’s right to the procedure despite the attempts to undermine abortion, she said.
“So we feel confident that this law is clearly unconstitutional and the court will find that it is,” Rikelman said.
The Supreme Court legalized abortion in its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. The country’s highest court has since banned the prohibition of abortion before the fetus is able to live outside the womb, usually seen as at about 20 weeks of gestation.
A similar measure banning abortion 15 weeks after conception has been introduced in the Louisiana legislature. The Mississippi law includes an exception in the case of severe fetal abnormality or a medical emergency, but does not exempt pregnancies arising from rape and incest.
Abortion rights groups say anti-abortion organizations could use the legal case to test the limits of abortion all the way to the Supreme Court.
In 2016, the high court refused to uphold an Arkansas law that banned abortion after 12 weeks’ gestation as well as a North Dakota six-week law.
The Guttmacher Institute, which opposes abortion limits, has said about 926,200 abortions were performed in the United States in 2014, down 12 percent from 2011.
The Supreme Court is due to hear arguments on Tuesday in a free-speech case brought by anti-abortion campaigners against a California law requiring private facilities that counsel pregnant women against abortion to post signs telling clients how to get state-funded abortions and contraceptives.
Reporting by Ian Simpson in Washington; Editing by Frances Kerry and Peter Cooney