Judge strikes down Georgia’s six-week abortion ban


A Georgia Superior Court judge struck down the state law ban abortions as early as six weeks of pregnancy, deeming it unconstitutional and saying that it cannot be applied.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney’s ruling again makes the procedure legal in the state until at least 20 weeks pregnant, effective immediately. The judge’s order follows a lawsuit to overturn the ban on multiple grounds and will apply statewide.

HB481Dubbed Georgia’s LIFE Act, it bans, with few exceptions, abortion when early heart activity is detected — as early as the sixth week of pregnancy, when many women don’t yet know they’re pregnant.

The lawsuit was brought by SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, a group that seeks to “strengthen and amplify the collective voices of Indigenous women and women of color to achieve reproductive justice,” according to the group’s website.

“After a long road, we are finally able to celebrate the end of an extreme ban on abortion in our state,” Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong, said in a statement, adding, “As we applaud the end of a ban rooted in white supremacy, it shouldn’t have existed in the first place Now it’s time to move forward with a vision for Georgia that establishes full bodily autonomy and liberation for our communities.”

In his view, McBurney wrote that when Georgia lawmakers passed the bill and Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed in 2019“the supreme law of this country was unequivocal – and had been for nearly half a century – that laws unduly restricting abortion before viability were unconstitutional.”

Because pre-viable abortion rights existed nationwide when the law was enacted, Georgia could not legally restrict it at that time, he wrote.

The state has filed a notice of appeal, according to a Kemp spokesperson.

“Today’s decision places a judge’s personal beliefs above the will of the legislature and the people of Georgia,” the spokesperson said.

When the measure was approved in 2019, Kemp had said“I realize some may challenge it in court. But our job is to do what is right, not what is easy. We are called to be strong and courageous, and we will not back down. We will always carry on to fight for life.

State Attorney General Chris Carr, a Republican, “will continue to fulfill our duty to defend our state’s laws in court,” his spokeswoman, Kara Richardson, said in an email.

McBurney wrote in his opinion that sections of the legislation “were manifestly unconstitutional when drafted, voted on and enacted”.

“…[E]Across America, including Georgia, it was unequivocally unconstitutional for governments – federal, state or local – to ban abortions before viability,” he wrote, adding that “if the courts have spoken, clearly and directly, of what the law is, as to what is and is not constitutional, legislatures and legislators are not free to pass laws contrary to such statements.

Although signed into law in 2019, the legislation had been blocked from coming into effect until this summer. After the The Supreme Court ruled on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization — which overturned Roe v. Wade, finding there is no longer a federal constitutional right to abortion — Georgia’s ban was pending for several weeks until that a federal appeals court allowed the law to be applied immediately.

McBurney wrote that lawmakers could pass similar legislation in light of the Dobbs ruling, but first they would have to contend with “the attention of the public who will undoubtedly and properly attend such an important and consequential debate if the rights of unborn children justify such restriction of women’s right to bodily autonomy and privacy.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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