“I believe that life begins at conception,” he said at a press conference. “Every life has value. And those are my personal beliefs.
After a reporter asked Gunn again if a “12-year-old abused by family members should carry this pregnancy to term,” the speaker confirmed that was what he believed to be right.
“That’s my personal belief,” Gunn replied. “I believe that life begins at conception.”
Gunn’s remarks echo similar sentiments expressed by Republicans such as South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem in the days following the Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The comments, which were met with backlash from liberals and women’s rights advocates, circulated widely on Wednesday, with a video of the exchange posted on Twitter having been viewed more than 500,000 times.
A spokesperson for Gunn did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.
The Mississippi Free Press first reported Gunn’s comments.
The fallout from last week’s landmark decision continued Thursday with President Biden calling for changes to Senate filibuster rules to codify into law abortion rights and privacy protections in what is the most aggressive stance he has taken on reproductive rights. Biden, who was previously reluctant to support changing decades-old Senate filibuster rules, took a more combative approach following the Supreme Court’s decision last week to overturn deer.
“I believe we need to codify Roe vs. Wade in law, and the way to do that is to make sure Congress votes to do it,” the president said at a press conference in Madrid. “And if the filibuster gets in the way, it’s like the right to vote; it should be – we provide an exception for that.
Biden calls for suspending filibuster rules to guarantee abortion rights
Although 13 states have “trigger bans” designed to take effect once deer was overturned, banning abortions within 30 days of the ruling, some judges temporarily blocked enforcement. In Texas, Harris County Judge Christine Weems (D) granted a temporary restraining order to allow clinics to offer abortions for at least two weeks without criminal prosecution, saying enforcing a pre –deer the ban would “inevitably and irreparably chill the provision of abortions in the vital final weeks during which safer abortion care remains available and legal in Texas.” A Florida judge on Thursday blocked a new law banning abortions in the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy, saying the measure violates the privacy provision of the state constitution.
Florida judge blocks new law that would ban abortions after 15 weeks
Republicans celebrated the end of deer last week, former Vice President Mike Pence went so far as to call for a national abortion ban. Some GOP leaders, including Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, appeared to voice support for Justice Clarence Thomas’ concurring opinion that the Supreme Court could consider other precedents that might be deemed “clearly wrong.” But other Republicans in the midterm races have often avoided questions or tried to change the subject, and Democrats have leaned hard to raise concerns about the court’s ruling and the new limits that will be imposed on abortions.
After Roe’s overthrow, many Republicans want to change the subject
Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch (R) on Monday certified a 2007 trigger law that would “ban abortions in the state of Mississippi” at any stage of pregnancy “except where necessary for the preservation of the mother’s life or when the pregnancy was caused by rape,” according to the office of the Mississippi Secretary of State. Rape should also be reported to law enforcement, which most incest cases do not, reported Counseling Today, a publication of the American Counseling Association.
Gunn isn’t the only Republican who doesn’t support any exceptions to legal abortions. Noem, the governor of South Dakota, echoed that sentiment, telling CBS’ “Face the Nation” on Sunday that she does not support legal abortion in cases of rape. The governor, considered a potential candidate for the GOP presidency in 2024, cited the importance of building “stronger families.”
“I have never believed that the fact that a tragedy or a tragic situation happens to someone is a reason for another tragedy to happen,” said Noem, who called for a special legislative session to strengthen the state’s trigger law that immediately banned abortion. “I would prefer that we keep moving forward and put resources in front of these women and walk alongside them.
Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson (R) was also asked on NBC’s “Meet the Press” to find out if he was comfortable knowing that a 13-year-old girl who was raped by a family member couldn’t get an abortion in the state.
“I would prefer a different outcome than that, but that’s not today’s debate in Arkansas,” Hutchinson told show host Chuck Todd on Sunday. “It may be in the future, but so far the law has kicked in with only one exception…as you said, in the case of the life of the mother.”
Data cited by the non-profit Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) shows that 93% of child victims who filed sexual abuse complaints with law enforcement knew the alleged perpetrators. More than a third of child victims of sexual abuse say the act was committed by a family member, according to RAINN.
Speaking upstairs at the Mississippi House last week, Gunn said the Supreme Court’s decision was “a profound change in the law in our country.” During his remarks on abortion and state law, Gunn was first asked by an Associated Press reporter, “What about the case of a 12-year-old girl who was sexually abused by her father or uncle?
“Nope, [the law] does not include an exception for incest,” Gunn said. “I don’t know if that will change.”
At this point, in response to the incest question, Gunn cited his personal belief that “life begins at conception.”
“These other things you’re talking about are definitely things we can talk about moving forward. I don’t want these things to detract from the significance of this day,” Gunn said, according to the Free Press. “I fear that if we stray too far from what we are talking about today, it will overshadow the importance of this day.”
Critics on social media lambasted Gunn’s remarks. Among them were Democrats from other states who say the Mississippi lawmaker’s beliefs are similar to those of GOP officials in their own states.
“Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn is not alone,” tweeted State of Virginia Sen. Ghazala Hashmi (D). “We have GOP senators in Virginia preparing to introduce similar bills, banning abortion altogether. Such bans would force traumatized children to give birth.
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves (R) joined Gunn on Wednesday to celebrate the overthrow of deer. The Governor did so by officially proclaiming that June was “Holiness of Life Month.”
Ashley Parker and Matt Viser contributed to this report.