Mississippi is one signature away from most restrictive abortion law in the U.S.

Giacomo Bologna
Mississippi Clarion Ledger

Mississippi is on the precipice of banning abortions within six weeks of a pregnancy.

The Senate agreed with changes made by the House Tuesday, paving the way for Gov. Phil Bryant to sign it into law.

The bill does not make exceptions for instances of rape or incest. It does make an exception for cases of medical emergencies.

Bryant tweeted Tuesday afternoon that he would sign the bill, which bans abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected.

"I look forward to signing it very soon," Bryant said.

The bill also includes criminal punishments for doctors who defy the ban.

Upon becoming law, it will almost certainly spend months or years held up in litigation.

Kentucky's governor signed a similar bill into law Friday, the New York Times reported, and a federal judge temporarily blocked it just hours later.

Mississippi Legislators already approved one of the strictest abortion laws last year, banning them after 15 weeks. That law was quickly halted and found to "unequivocally" violate women's constitutional rights by a federal judge last year. Attorney General Jim Hood has vowed to fight the decision. 

Miss. Gov. Phil Bryant speaks to supporters of Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith following the announcement of her win against Mike Espy in the run off for U.S. Senate. Tuesday, Nov. 27, 2018.

After the bill's passage, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves issued a statement, saying that Mississippians "value the sanctity of life."

“A beating heart clearly means life has begun and should be protected. I appreciate the work of both senators and representatives for getting this legislation to Gov. Bryant’s desk," Reeves said.

The bill provoked heated debate in both chambers.

Some opponents made a financial argument, saying Mississippi will waste taxpayer money fighting an abortion ban that will never be ruled constitutional by the courts.

They say the state has already wasted money fighting Mississippi's abortion laws, including the 15-week ban.

According to Margaret Ann Morgan, spokeswoman for the Mississippi Attorney General's Office, the 15-week abortion ban has not cost the state any additional money because staff attorneys have been working on the case.

Morgan said staff attorneys have spent 916 hours on the case so far. Morgan said that time is valued at $65 hour, meaning the attorney general's office has spent nearly $60,000 on the case so far.

A Democratic lawmaker accused Republicans last week of grandstanding on a bill that will surely be tied up in court. Rep. Jarvis Dortch, D-Raymond, said Republicans were not "brave enough" to ban abortion outright.

However, some believe Mississippi will ultimately prevail in court.

During an earlier discussion of the bill, Sen. Joey Fillingane said that with the appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh, the U.S. Supreme Court could rule differently on abortion than it traditionally has.

“These decisions may swing in a very different decision now," Fillingane told his fellow lawmakers.

Other states also appear to be taking note of the new Supreme Court — and how it may rule on abortion.

States like Florida, Kentucky, Ohio, South Carolina, Missouri and Tennessee are considering or have passed legislation similar to what could soon be law in Mississippi.

Supporters of these abortion bans foresee the possibility that the high court might either reverse Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion, or uphold specific state laws that would undermine Roe.

Felicia Brown-Williams, the Mississippi director of Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, said in a statement that it takes longer than six weeks for many women to realize they are pregnant.

"This is absolutely devastating for the people of this state. People die every day in Mississippi because they lack access to health care," Brown-Williams said. "Not only will this bill serve as a death sentence for even more people, but it will now be the subject of an expensive legal battle, funded by Mississippi taxpayers, that will divert even more resources away from critical infrastructure and health care we need.” 

More:Dem lawmaker on 6-week abortion ban: GOP 'not brave enough' to ban it outright

More:She's a pro-life Christian from Miss. — and the only Republican to vote 'no' on abortion bill

Contact Giacomo "Jack" Bologna at 601-961-7282 or gbologna@gannett.com. Follow him on Twitter @gbolognaCL.