CNN anchor Jake Tapper repeatedly confronted Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves on Sunday over that state’s trigger laws that will snap into effect if and when Roe v. Wade is overturned, pressing the Republican on forcing women to carry pregnancies resulting from incest to term.
Following the bombshell leak of a majority Supreme Court draft opinion that would strike down the landmark 1973 decision that established a federal right to abortion, much attention has focused on conservative-led states’ legislation that will automatically take effect if it is nullified. Mississippi, like many other Southern and Great Plains states, has a so-called “trigger law” that would effectively ban abortion right away, providing exceptions for rape and if the life of the mother is at risk.
A review of a 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi in a case known as Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization also represents the vehicle through which Roe would be overturned.
Interviewing Reeves on CNN’s State of the Union, Tapper first asked the governor about any analysis the state had done on the immediate impact of a full ban on abortion. Specifically, the veteran anchor wanted to know if Mississippi had concluded how many of the thousands of state residents who get legal abortions each year would die or end up suffering serious harm by seeking unsafe and illegal abortions in the future.
“Well, Jake, I can’t predict for you exactly what’s going to happen in the future,” Reeves replied. “What I can tell you is what we’re trying to do in Mississippi is we’re trying to provide those potential expectant mothers the resources that they need so that they can go to a full-term pregnancy if they choose to keep that child.”
Tapper, however, pointed out that Mississippi currently has the highest infant mortality rate in the nation. Additionally, the state has no guaranteed paid maternity leave, and the Mississippi legislature rejected extending post-partum Medicaid coverage.
“You say you want to do more to support mothers and children, but you’ve been in state government since 2004,” the State of the Union host declared. “You were the state treasurer, then you were the lieutenant governor, and now you’re the governor. Based on the track record of the state of Mississippi, why should any of these girls or moms believe you?”
Acknowledging the state’s “long history of poor health outcomes” due to poverty, Reeves stated that “the best thing we can do for [women] is to provide and improve educational opportunities.” He then proceeded to more explicitly suggest women’s own shortcomings were at fault when he intoned, “They’ve got to improve the quality of their skills” in the workforce.
From there, Tapper grilled Reeves on the state’s trigger law on abortion that has no exception for incest, asking the governor if he could explain why the law would force victims of incest to carry those children to term.
Attempting to dodge the question, Reeves noted that when the legislation was passed, the state’s House of Representatives had a Democratic speaker as well as a Democrat leading the public health committee. “This sort of speaks to how far the Democrats in Washington have come on this issue,” he added.
“Why is it acceptable in your state to force girls who are victims of incest to carry those children to term?” Tapper, undeterred, shot back.
The governor responded that over 92 percent of abortions are “elective procedures,” while incest accounts for less than one percent of all abortions. At the same time, he said that if they “need to have that conversation in the future” as it relates to the trigger law, they “can certainly do that.”
Reminding Reeves that the measure in question would be law in his state the moment Roe v. Wade is struck down, the CNN anchor attempted to peg him to a direct answer.
“Let me ask you, what about a fetus that has serious or fatal abnormalities that will not allow that fetus to live outside the womb? Is the state of Mississippi going to force those girls and women who have this tragedy inside them to carry the child to term?” Tapper wondered. “Are you going to force them to do that?”
Deflecting once again, Reeves insisted the examples represent a “very small percentage of the overall abortions” and that America’s current abortion laws are “extreme.” (In fact, the U.S. is poised to be uniquely restrictive on abortion rights globally.) He also claimed that even if the Supreme Court didn’t overturn Roe but merely upheld Mississippi’s 15-week ban on abortion, the vast majority of Americans would support those restrictions.
Eventually, Tapper turned his attention to Republican-led states seeking to potentially outlaw and criminalize the use of contraceptives because they are defining the moment of conception as fertilization. Louisiana, for instance, is considering a bill that would classify abortion as homicide—which could also conceivably include the use of emergency contraceptives and IUDs.
“So, I’m not making this up,” Tapper stated after flagging the potential Louisiana law. “These are the conversations going on in legislatures in your area. But just to be clear, you have no intention of seeking to ban IUDs or Plan B?”
Reeves wouldn’t fully take that possibility off the table.
“That is not what we are focused on at this time,” he responded. “We’re focused on looking at, seeing what the court allows for; the bill that is before the court is a 15-week ban. We believe that the overturning of Roe is the correct decision by the court. And so in Mississippi, we don’t have laws on the books that would lead to arresting individuals or anything along those lines.”