By Dana Nuccitelli | CNN
Mississippi’s legislature just made it legal for people to execute doctors who perform abortions. The US supreme court will make its decision on HB 1523 – a Republican-backed bill banning abortions even in the case of rape or incest, as long as the woman’s life is not at risk. The bill’s backers believe it represents the biggest victory in the more than 50-year-old fight to restrict abortion rights.
Senate Bill 1523 is unusual not only because of its severity, but also because of its unusual secrecy. Republicans who introduced the bill didn’t want it publicly debated. When Governor Phil Bryant pushed back hard on the bill’s secrecy, lawmakers and lobbyists from Mississippi and elsewhere volunteered to testify anonymously.
Though a few doctors will be working undercover, few, if any, women will be forced to undergo an abortion in Mississippi because of HB 1523. The only doctors who are likely to perform abortions under HB 1523 would be parents of rape victims who had obtained permission from the court, or the children of women who were willing to carry the baby to term – but couldn’t find an abortion provider in Mississippi.
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The bill also helps maintain an important lie – that life begins at conception. The limited contraception that will be available under HB 1523 will not abort a fertilized egg. In fact, the language of the law effectively bans contraception, including the long-used “morning after pill” and the IUD, because they work to prevent fertilization. (These products may still be used for emergency contraception when prescribed by a physician who has determined that the woman is not at risk for infection, ectopic pregnancy or miscarriage.)
The women who would be forced to carry a pregnancy to term under HB 1523 would make up for their losses by drinking or using drugs to make themselves feel better – yet another major lie pushed by the anti-abortion movement.
Would the doctors who are forced to perform abortions even exist in Mississippi? Maybe, but not in large numbers. The state has ranked near the bottom nationally for physician training for a long time. Few physicians teach medical school and MD residency in Mississippi. There are about 30,000 people living in Mississippi, but there are only about 6,000 physicians, including 50 family doctors and about two dozen OB/GYNs. The median age of a resident MD in Mississippi is 59 years old, and 80% are male.
Most OB/GYNs are “outside practice” doctors, working as licensed physician assistants and nurse practitioners in clinics elsewhere. The Mississippi Disciplinary Medical Board has fewer than 50 doctors – who are forced to train in other states. The bulk of the state’s doctors work for publicly-funded hospitals that provide fewer than 300 abortions per year.
Will HB 1523 really lead to more abortions? Republican State Senator Mike Bell, who pushed for the legislation, told reporters that he believed the bill would actually make Mississippi’s abortion rate go down. “I just think that women’s faith in the doctor will be strengthened,” he said.
In other words, more women will be convinced that doctors love babies, that pregnancy will lead to unwanted parenthood and, for many of them, so-called soul-eating guilt and shame.
Those aren’t things that just happen without a bill that says something different. Some of the laws making abortion less safe already exist in Mississippi. One prevents an abortion if the patient faces threat of an ectopic pregnancy, even in a non-emergency case. Another prohibits abortion if the physician is married or cohabitating.
In other words, the impetus for HB 1523 comes from a state legislature that is attempting to make abortion illegal, not punish the doctors who perform abortions.