Chairman questions bills on immigration, abortion

Posted on April 2, 2012

10TV, April 2, 2012 by

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Immigration-enforcement and abortion-regulation bills face tough scrutiny under a deadline in a Mississippi Senate committee.

Tuesday is the final day for Senate committees to act on general bills that have already passed the House, and for House committees to act on those that have already passed the Senate.

Senate Judiciary B Committee Chairman Hob Bryan, D-Amory, said Monday that he has concerns about the immigration and abortion bills, which have been among the most widely discussed at the Capitol this year.

House Bill 1196 would prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detectable, unless the woman’s health is at risk. Bryan said he questions whether the bill is constitutional under Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that established the nationwide right to abortion, or under subsequent Supreme Court rulings that have upheld Roe.

“The restrictions we can place there are very closely regulated by the Roe v. Wade decision or decisions,” Bryan said. “So one of the things I’m looking at as I look at the bill is whether the bill has any chance of being upheld by the courts.”

Bryan said the immigration measure, House Bill 488, could intrude into the responsibilities of local law-enforcement agencies.

“It appears that this particular bill deals almost exclusively with the state of Mississippi instructing policemen and sheriff’s deputies how they’re to act when they arrest somebody,” Bryan said at a forum sponsored by the Capitol press corps and Mississippi State University’s Stennis Institute of Government.

The immigration-enforcement bill is supported by Republican Gov. Phil Bryant, the Mississippi Tea Party and the Mississippi Federation for Immigration Reform. It’s opposed by sheriffs, police chiefs, city and county elected officials and several agriculture and business groups, including the influential Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation.

The “heartbeat” bill is supported by several anti-abortion groups, and supporters said they intend to rally at the Capitol on Tuesday. Several dozen opponents rallied outside the Capitol last week against that bill and other abortion-regulation proposals, saying they would create more government intrusion into what should be private medical decisions by women and their doctors.

House Bill 1196 is assigned to Judiciary B and the Senate Public Health Committee. It would have to pass Judiciary B before it could be sent to Public Health.

Bryan said he has supported several abortion restrictions that have been put into law since he was elected to the Senate more than 28 years ago. Mississippi requires a 24-hour waiting period before any abortion can be performed. It also requires parental or judicial consent for any minor seeking to end a pregnancy. Only one abortion clinic still operates in the state.

“What we have not done is to pass bill after bill after bill that was obviously unconstitutional just so we could all get on record one more time as casting another vote realizing that what was going to happen was someone would file suit the next day and the legislation would never take effect,” Bryan said Monday.

Even if the immigration and abortion bills fail in the Senate Judiciary B Committee, Republican Rep. Andy Gipson of Braxton is trying to keep the issues alive by inserting them into other Senate bills that have gone to the House. Gipson’s move might fall short though because of restrictions about the way issues can be tacked onto other bills in the midst of a legislative session.

Posted in: Mississippi