Abortion in Mississippi is legal as long as it is performed before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Like other states, restrictive laws to abortion rights have been increasing forcing many residents to move out of state to get the procedure done. There was a 13% increase in the abortion rate in Mississippi between 2014 and 2017, from 3.8 to 4.3 abortions per 1, 000 women of reproductive age. Abortions in Mississippi represent 0.3% of all abortions in the United States (Jones RK, Witwer E and Jerman J, 2019).
Abortion laws in Mississippi fall under Mississippi Code, Title 41.
The statutes highlight the medical procedures, women’s health protection, how to obtain abortion services and the exceptions to abortion crimes. Some of the restriction on abortion effective 1st September 2019 include the following: The patient must receive counseling by the state designed to discourage the patient from having an abortion. The patient then has a 24-hour wait period before having the procedure.
Public funding is available for abortion only in cases of life endangerment, rape, incest or fetal impairment.
Prohibition of use of telemedicine to administer medication abortion. In case a public employee gets pregnant through rape and incest or faces a fetal anomaly, the abortion procedure will be covered by the insurance. Prohibition of using safe, effective and commonly used method of second-trimester. Using dilation and evacuation are permitted only in cases of life endangerment or severely compromised physical health of the patient. The state has set out requirements which relate to the physical space, equipment and staff at the facilities.
Health plans offered in the state’s health exchange under the Affordable Care Act can only cover abortion in cases of life endangerment, or in cases of rape or incest.
The parents of a minor must consent before an abortion is provided. In cases of life endangerment, severely compromised health, or there is a lethal fetal anomaly, abortion is permissible after 18 or more weeks. (Guttmacher Institute)
People’s Attitudes towards Abortion
As discussed earlier, the abortion debate seems to be pro-life vs pro-choice. Deeper research into the debate shows that people’s opinions are more complex than this and mostly deviate from either of the aforementioned ideologies. The dichotomy sprung right after the Roe v. Wade decision and this has been the viewpoint taken by researchers and public polls. The research conducted has always been around gender, race/ethnicity, political views, and religion.
In the case of gender, several research studies show that men and women differ in the matter of abortion with men being more pro-choice inclined than women (Craig and O’Brien, 1993). Men tended to have more traditional and conservative views on abortion and as (Finlay 1996) found in his study, they would only allow abortion in what they considered crucial circumstances, rape and the woman’s life being in danger.
According to (Jelen and Wilcox, 2003), African Americans/ Blacks were more supportive of legal abortion compared to Whites in research done between 1989 and 1993. In the case of different races obtaining an abortion, Hispanics had a higher likelihood to undergo abortion compared to non-Hispanic white women but less likely than the African American counterparts (Henshaw & Kost, 1996). Political views and religion were covered earlier.
When people are given different scenarios, circumstances, and asked whether they think a woman should have access to safe, legal abortion, the complexities emerge. According to a national survey by General Social Survey (GSS) on seven specific scenarios, 61.8% said that women could have abortion under some circumstances and not others, 31% said they should have abortion under all circumstances and 7.2% said, the women should not have an abortion under any of the circumstances (Smith and Son, 2012). The circumstances mentioned include a defect in the baby, marital status, woman’s life at risk, socio-economic difficulties and rape.
Abortion is considered a human right protected under several international and regional human rights treaties and national-level constitutions around the world. Restrictive abortion policies have been condemned repeatedly as it goes against the human right norms already agreed upon. The right to have a safe abortion is embedded in a myriad of rights including the right to life, right to liberty, right to privacy, freedom from inhumane treatment, equality and non-discrimination.
The treaties and policies touch on many topics within abortion including legal grounds for abortion, gestation limitations, the right to information, medical abortions and criminality. The abortion laws have been categorized as what is prohibited altogether, to save a woman’s life, to preserve health, broad social or economic grounds and on request. With such a framework, the reproductive rights of a woman play a major role as societies deepen their understanding and role of politics and policies in their day to day lives. Legalizing abortion reveals the need for education and information in matters of sexuality. Thus participation of women and girls is key in its advocacy.
The rise in the abortion rate as seen in the U.S is an indirect indicator that women have gained power. An unwanted pregnancy no longer stops a woman from pursuing her education or career. Most of all, she has control of her sexuality and identity. The medical practitioners are also winners in this debate as they have a major influence on abortion decisions. ‘The abortion debate is, and always has been, defined by the changing connections between the issue and other social and cultural divides in the American social fabric. It is in the end, a surprisingly empty vessel into which movements, politicians, and regular Americans have poured their anxieties and concerns.'(Ziad Munson). More research should be done to identify perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors of people towards the abortion debate. The constructed dichotomous approach should break down to let other viewpoints be incorporated or allowed to spring up.
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