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Mississippi Gov. Most Likely to Sign Ban-Abortion Bill

Barbour says he'd likely sign bill to ban most abortions in Miss.

EMILY WAGSTER PETTUS
Associated Press

Republican Gov. Haley Barbour said Wednesday that he likely would sign a bill to ban most abortions in Mississippi if it's approved by lawmakers.

The state already has some of the strictest abortion laws in the nation. The bill that passed the House Public Health Committee on Tuesday would allow abortion only to save the pregnant woman's life. It would make no exception in cases of rape or incest.

South Dakota lawmakers passed a similar bill last week that was intended to provoke a court showdown over the legality of abortion.

Responding to questions about whether he'd sign a bill with no exceptions for rape or incest, Barbour said: "It hasn't gotten to my desk yet. When one gets there, we'll find out, and I suspect I'll sign it. But I would certainly rather it come to my desk with an exception for rape and incest. I think that's consistent with the opinion of the vast majority of Mississippians and Americans."

The bill goes to the full House, which could vote next week. Speaker Billy McCoy, D-Rienzi, said he believes it will pass the House and move to the Senate.

McCoy told The Associated Press that although he opposes abortion, he always has been willing to make an exception for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.

"As I live longer and longer, the harder and harder it has become for me to accept abortion, period," McCoy said.

He said he'll listen to arguments on both sides of the issue. He said not allowing exceptions for rape or incest would be "pretty tough."

"It's also for those of us who don't believe in abortion to think about the taking of a human life, regardless of how it got started to be on this earth," McCoy said.

Lt. Gov. Amy Tuck, a Republican, said she hasn't had a chance to read the House proposal.

"I think this body will look very strongly on pro-life issues," said Tuck, who presides over the Senate.

The lawmaker who introduced the near-ban, House Public Health Committee Chairman Steve Holland said he acted because he was tired of piecemeal attempts to add new abortion restrictions each year.

Holland, D-Plantersville, said he has voted for some abortion restrictions and against others in the past.

Mississippi already requires a 24-hour waiting period and counseling for all abortions, plus the consent of both parents for minors who seek the procedure.

The state has one abortion clinic, in Jackson, and its leaders plan to fight if more restrictions are imposed.

Also, Nsombi Lambright, executive director of the American Civil Liberties in Mississippi, said her office had been contacted Wednesday by other abortion-rights groups that might sue Mississippi if the new restrictions become law.

"That's more of the state's legal resources going to something that didn't' have to happen," Lambright said.

Terri Herring, president of Pro-Life Mississippi, said she hopes the state will outlaw abortion, but she's not certain whether there's a majority on the U.S. Supreme Court willing to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling establishing the right to an abortion.

"We feel like we are still one justice short of being able to overturn Roe," Herring said.

The South Dakota legislation went to Republican Gov. Mike Rounds on Tuesday, and he has 15 days to act. Rounds has said he's inclined to sign the bill into law.

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The bill is Senate Bill 2922.

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