Georgia’s law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy was struck down yesterday, allowing abortion care beyond six weeks to resume in the state for the first time in almost four months.
In today’s court order, Judge Robert McBurney of the Superior Court of Fulton County struck down the ban as void and without legal basis, since it violated Roe v. Wade when it was enacted in 2019. The Georgia Constitution prohibits the legislature from passing laws that violate either the state or federal constitution.
Judge McBurney further found that a subsequent change in federal constitutional law, which happened when the U.S. Supreme Court overruled Roe, does not revive the ban. Instead, if the legislature wishes to ban abortion, it must pass a new law “in the sharp glare of public attention that will undoubtedly and properly attend such an important and consequential debate,” Judge McBurney wrote in his order.
“This is a welcome reprieve to the people of Georgia, who have been suffering under this extreme abortion ban for months,” said Autumn Katz, Interim Director of Litigation at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “As we saw in the midterms, most Americans do not want politicians dictating their reproductive choices. Everyone deserves the fundamental right to make decisions about their own bodies, families, and futures. We will continue to fight tooth and nail for Georgians and people across the country.”
Georgia’s Abortion Ban Took Effect July 20
Just weeks after Roe v. Wade was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court, a federal appeals court allowed the Georgia law, H.B. 481, to take effect on July 20. On July 26, the Center and its partners filed a lawsuit to preliminarily block the ban, but on August 15, the Superior Court of Fulton County refused to do so. The trial took place October 24 and 25.
In addition to arguing Georgia’s ban was void when enacted, the lawsuit also claims that it violates the Georgia constitution’s liberty, privacy, and equal protection guarantees and that it violates Georgians’ privacy rights by giving prosecutors unfettered access to abortion patients’ private medical records without due process.
“Today’s ruling is an enormous victory for our patients and our state,” said Kwajelyn Jackson, executive director of Feminist Women’s Health Center, one of the plaintiffs in the case. “Our mission for the last nearly 50 years has been to provide our patients with access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care, including abortion. With today’s victory under our belts, we will be able to finally resume providing this essential health care to our community.”
With States Banning Abortion, Large Swaths of the U.S. Are Without Access
Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling eliminating the constitutional right to abortion in June, lawmakers in several states have acted to ban or severely restrict abortion. Abortion is currently illegal in 12 states and more states are expected to restrict or ban abortion when state legislatures convene in January 2023.
Large swaths of the South and Midwest are now abortion deserts—where people are left without access to abortion care and must travel long distances to access services or are forced to carry pregnancies against their will.
The case, SisterSong v. State of Georgia, was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Georgia-based law firms Caplan Cobb and Bondurant Mixson & Elmore on behalf of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, Feminist Women’s Health Center, Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc., Atlanta Comprehensive Wellness Clinic, Atlanta Women’s Medical Center, FemHealth USA d/b/a carafem, Summit Medical Associates, P.C., Carrie Cwiak, M.D., M.P.H., Lisa Haddad, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., Eva Lathrop, M.D., M.P.H., and Medical Students for Choice.