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Mississippi Governor Leaves Open the Possibility of Banning Some Contraceptives

On two separate TV programs over the weekend, Tate Reeves tried to avoid talking about potential bans on contraception.

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves delivers a televised address at the Governor's Mansion in Jackson, Mississippi, on June 30, 2020.

Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves gave unclear answers over the weekend on whether his state would ban certain types of contraception in the event the Supreme Court overturns nearly 50 years of abortion rights precedent in an upcoming ruling involving a law he enacted last year.

Mississippi’s state lawyers in Dobbs v. Jackson argued before the Court in December that the 1973 decision Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court ruling that recognized abortion rights in the U.S., should be overturned. A draft opinion leaked from the Court last week indicated that at least five conservative justices, constituting a majority of the High Court, were prepared to do so, leaving abortion regulations up to either state legislatures or Congress.

Reeves made two TV appearances over the weekend to discuss the repercussions of overturning Roe. The Mississippi governor was also asked about whether lawmakers in his home state would attempt to regulate or ban contraceptives, and if such moves would have his support. On both shows, he tried to shift the conversation away from abortion, and didn’t give a clear answer on what he would do if a bill banning birth control reached his desk.

On NBC’s “Meet the Press,” host Chuck Todd asked Reeves what would happen if Roe was overturned. The state’s 15-week ban, which prompted the Court to take up Dobbs in the first place, wouldn’t be implemented, Reeves said, but a 2007 “trigger law,” automatically banning all abortions in Mississippi, would take effect. That law only allows for abortion procedures to happen in cases of rape or where the individual’s life is at risk.

“What about contraceptives?” Todd asked.

The governor refused to explain whether he would support or enact bans on certain types of birth control, but reiterated that he believes “life begins at conception.”

Reeves also appeared on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday, where he was asked again if he would ban contraception. The Mississippi governor once more tried to avoid the subject, saying that the “next phase” of the anti-abortion movement would be focusing on helping individuals who unexpectedly found themselves pregnant.

On that program, Reeves reiterated his belief that “life begins at conception,” but refused to answer what that actually meant to him — whether he believed a fertilized egg, on its own, meant a person was pregnant, or whether an egg had to be implanted on a uterine wall to be considered conceived.

The distinction is an important one, as it could clarify what contraceptives would be targeted in a potential ban.

A number of birth control devices and medications (such as Plan B and Intrauterine Devices) work by preventing the implantation of a fertilized egg. If a law purports that “conception” and “fertilization” are one and the same, it would mean those types of contraceptives could be banned, under those definitions.

Medical experts agree, however, that “fertilization” isn’t when pregnancy begins, as a fertilized egg needs to be attached to the uterine wall before it can begin developing.

Reeves’s comments came days after a Republican-sponsored bill in Louisiana advanced in the state legislature that would ban all abortions in the state after the fertilization of an egg. If passed, the bill could potentially be used to ban those types of birth control, reproductive rights experts have warned. Those in violation of the prospective law could potentially be charged with homicide, according to the text of the legislation.

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