Judge overturns Georgia ban on abortion starting around 6 weeks into a pregnancy
ATLANTA (AP) — A judge overturned Georgia’s ban on abortion starting around six weeks into a pregnancy, ruling Tuesday that it violated the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent when it was enacted.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney’s ruling applies statewide. The ban had been in effect since July.
It prohibited most abortions once a “detectable human heartbeat” is present. Cardiac activity can be detected by ultrasound in cells within an embryo that will eventually become the heart as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That means most abortions in Georgia were effectively banned at a point before many women knew they were pregnant.
McBurney’s ruling came in a lawsuit that sought to strike down the ban on multiple grounds, including that it violates the Georgia Constitution’s right to privacy and liberty by forcing pregnancy and childbirth on women in the state. The lawsuit filed by doctors and advocacy groups in July also argued that Georgia’s abortion ban was invalid because it violated the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent when it was enacted.
McBurney agreed with that argument in his decision.
Georgia’s law was passed by state lawmakers and signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019 but had been blocked from taking effect until the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had protected the right to an abortion for nearly 50 years. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Georgia to begin enforcing its abortion law just over three weeks after the high court’s decision in June.
“Today’s ruling places the personal beliefs of a judge over the will of the legislature and people of Georgia. The state has already filed a notice of appeal, and we will continue to fight for the lives of Georgia’s unborn children,” a spokesperson for Governor Brian Kemp stated.
McBurney said when the law was enacted, “everywhere in America, including Georgia, it was unequivocally unconstitutional for governments — federal, state, or local — to ban abortions before viability.”
He said the state’s law “did not become the law of Georgia when it was enacted and it is not the law of Georgia now.”
Charirwoman of the Georgia Democratic Party Congresswoman Nikkema Williams said, “today’s ruling is a victory and a relief for women across the state whose health and well-being have been at risk for months under Governor Brian Kemp’s dangerous six-week abortion ban. While abortion access is protected in Georgia for now, make no mistake: reproductive rights are still relentlessly under attack by Georgia Republicans like Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr, who wasted no time announcing he will appeal the decision and spend even more taxpayer dollars working to strip Georgians of their rights. In the upcoming legislative session and beyond, rest assured that Georgia Democrats will fight tooth and nail to protect abortion access and defend every Georgian’s right to make their own personal medical decisions without government interference.”
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Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr filed an appeal to Georgia’s Supreme Court.
The state has argued that the Roe decision itself was wrong and the Supreme Court ruling wiped it out of existence.
Attorney General spokesperson Kara Richardson said the Attorney General’s office “will continue to defend the laws of our state in court.”
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