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Former governor whose bill was at the center of Roe ruling reacts to SCOTUS' decision

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Well, let's turn now to the state that brought us to this moment, Mississippi.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: No one shall be denied the right to life...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: You know what?

(CROSSTALK)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: They taught you wrong, baby.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: You need to go back.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Go back to the...

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: There's one set of rights.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: ...Third grade.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: There's one set of rights here, and it's mine.

KELLY: The scene today at Jackson Women's Health Organization. That was anti-abortion activists shouting at volunteers trying to usher patients into the clinic. Derinda Hancock was one of those volunteers. She says today has been hard.

DERINDA HANCOCK: It's impossible. They're down here telling people the clinic's closed, which it isn't. There's only so much we can do, man.

KELLY: Jackson Women's Health Organization is the only abortion provider in the state and the defendant in the case that the Supreme Court decided today. It concerned a state law enacted in 2018. The governor who signed that bill into law was then-Governor Republican Phil Bryant, and he joins me now. Governor Bryant, welcome.

PHIL BRYANT: I'm glad to be with you. It's a glorious day for those of us that are very pro-life.

KELLY: Well, I think people will have already gathered that this is the ruling you were hoping for. Can I ask your first thought when you heard the news?

BRYANT: Well, I was prayerful. To God be the glory, as - which I told everyone. There'll be a lot of politicians, and rightfully so, people who've helped that would try to take credit for this. That will be those that are campaigning for office that would say, that's exactly what I would have done. But when we had the opportunity in 2018 to protect innocent lives starting at 15 weeks, and of course, we then - we passed a more stringent anti-abortion bill after that. But we just believe that it's murder. We believe that it's a tearing apart of the human body in the womb. And so we were very happy, I was, and I know many of us that heard that ruling today.

KELLY: Walk me through what exactly changes now in Mississippi. You have a trigger law that kicks in.

BRYANT: We do.

KELLY: Mississippi, as we mentioned, only has one clinic providing abortions. What do these next days look like in your state?

BRYANT: Well, I think people will start thinking about something called individual responsibility. I think they're going to have to take into consideration that I might not be able to get an abortion on demand. I might not be able to do that just for my convenience. And so I think - I hope and I believe that there will be adults who will be more responsible and not bring about a life that they do not want.

This is not the most complicated thing in the world. Any seventh and eighth grader probably begins to realize where babies come from. And so for an adult female to say, well, you know, I just don't - I don't think this is what I want to do right now, I hope they will see more clearly through that process. And I know things happen. Look. I'm just saying that the life of that unborn child was where we were thinking and what we were doing when all of this began and even into today.

KELLY: In your years in office, you, of course, were governor for everybody in Mississippi, whatever their politics.

BRYANT: Correct.

KELLY: What do you say to Mississippians, like some of the ones we heard in that tape from outside the clinic today, who believe it is the right of women to decide what happens inside their own bodies and who are devastated...

BRYANT: I...

KELLY: ...At today's decision?

BRYANT: I would say first you need to kneel and pray to God, who is the God of everyone, that in your heart, you can understand that that is a living human being. And so try as you might to find God in this. Try to pray and have him open your eyes and come into your heart and realize this is your child. This is a human being who has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And you're about to take all that away for your convenience. Pray. That's what I would tell them. Pray hard.

KELLY: When you say women are choosing an abortion because it is for their convenience, I just want to push you on that, because there are a lot of women who would say, this is not about my convenience. This is not a choice anyone wants to make. This is about my right to control my body.

BRYANT: And I would tell men and women that you have a responsibility. We all did, and all of us are - fall short of the grace of God. But please consider your responsibilities. And, men, take the responsibility of being the father. So we don't want to wish - we're not hardhearted. We understand these difficult situations. It's why we work so hard here to make adoption easier for families who can't have children and families who want desperately to have a child. So look. I'm not mad at anyone. I'm not judging anyone. I am just saying that the Supreme Court upheld a law today that said that the states have the right to regulate abortions and that we will continue to do that within the confines of the Constitution of the United States laws.

KELLY: Phil Bryant. He was the governor of Mississippi from 2012 to 2020. Governor Bryant, thank you.

BRYANT: Thank you.

KELLY: One of many voices we are hearing from today as we cover this landmark ruling by the Supreme Court. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.
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