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Miss. Senate approves abortion ban, bill targeting funding for abortion providers

The Mississippi Senate on Tuesday approved two antiabortion-rights bills, the Jackson Free Press reports (Dreher, Jackson Free Press, 3/29).

Bill banning medically proven method of abortion

One bill (HB 519), approved by the Senate in a 40-6 vote, would ban a medically proven method of abortion (WAPT, 3/30). The measure, sponsored by state Rep. Sam Mims (R), includes an exception for when the procedure would help prevent a "serious health risk" to the woman. Physicians who violate the ban would be guilty of a felony, punishable by up to two years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Mississippi is among several states that have introduced such a ban. According to the Center for Reproductive Rights, the bans are unconstitutional (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/1).

The bill now returns to the state House (WAPT, 3/30).

Bill targeting funding for abortion clinics

The state Senate also voted 77-37 to pass an amended bill (SB 2238) that would bar the state Division of Medicaid from allocating funds to any entity that provides abortion care in instances other than rape, incest or life endangerment (Royals, Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 3/29). The measure would also bar the allocation of Medicaid funding to any entity that affiliates with such abortion providers or maintains facilities where such care is offered.

As originally written, the measure barred only the state's sole Planned Parenthood clinic from receiving Medicaid reimbursements for family planning services. Felicia Brown-Williams, director of public policy at Planned Parenthood Southeast, said the clinic provides only family planning and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections. The clinic does not offer abortion care.

However, the bill was amended to prohibit Medicaid reimbursement for any entities that provide or affiliate with a provider of abortion care outside of the limited exceptions (Jackson Free Press, 3/29). As a result, the bill would effectively bar Medicaid funding for the Planned Parenthood clinic and the state's only abortion clinic, Jackson Women's Health Organization (JWHO). JWHO Director Shannon Brewer noted the clinic is working to start providing intrauterine devices and other contraceptive services to Medicaid beneficiaries.

Comments

During debate over SB 2238, liberal lawmakers in the state Senate criticized the measure as a waste of time, noting that the Planned Parenthood clinic does not provide abortion care and that Medicaid reimbursements for the services the clinic provides totaled less than $600 over the last five years (Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 3/29).

State Rep. Adrienne Wooten (D) said women should have access to abortion care and family planning services in instances of rape, incest and fetal anomalies. "We don't have any right to tell people what they can or can't do as it relates to pro-creation or not pro-creating," she said.

State Rep. Omeria Scott (D) noted SB 2238 would effectively end all state funding for family planning services for Medicaid beneficiaries (Jackson Free Press, 3/29). "This bill is prohibiting the Division of Medicaid from reimbursing Planned Parenthood for family planning services. That's what this bill does," she said, adding, "This is saying we're not going to help [low-income] women and young women have access to affordable birth control" (Jackson Clarion-Ledger, 3/29).

Separately, Brown-Williams said SB 2238 "would boot [Planned Parenthood] out of the family-planning program ... and prevent them from reimbursement which is ludicrous if the goal is to reduce the need for abortion." She added, "In every state that [state officials] have tried to prohibit Planned Parenthood from participating in Medicaid reimbursements we have sued, and we have won" (Jackson Free Press, 3/29).