Today, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, Planned Parenthood, and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed suit challenging a six-week abortion ban signed into law last month by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp. The law would make ending a pregnancy illegal before many women even know they’re pregnant—effectively banning abortion outright.
If Georgia House Bill 481 goes into effect, doctors would be criminalized for providing an abortion after the detection of fetal cardiac activity (around six weeks of pregnancy). Anyone seeking an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy would be forced to travel out of state, continue their pregnancies against their will, or seek care outside the regulated clinical setting.
Even if a woman finds out she’s pregnant before six weeks, barriers to access under existing Georgia law would make it very difficult to get an abortion before the cutoff. State law forces women to receive biased counseling designed to deter them from having an abortion, and then wait 24 hours before the procedure. Because Georgia law limits public and private insurance coverage of abortion, women often must save up money to pay for the procedure.
“Georgia is one of nine states that have passed abortion bans this year in the hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade,” said Nancy Northup, president and CEO at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “None of these laws are in effect, and we are fighting to keep it that way. For nearly half a century, the Supreme Court has protected the right to abortion, and we know the majority of Americans continue to support abortion access.”
Georgia is one of five states to enact bans on abortion after six weeks in 2019, joining Ohio, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Alabama banned abortion at any stage of pregnancy, while Missouri passed an eight-week ban, and Utah and Arkansas passed 18-week bans.
Pre-viability abortion bans undermine the guaranteed right to access abortion care created by Roe v. Wade and affirmed by nearly half a century of Supreme Court precedent. Every federal court that has reviewed a pre-viability ban — from 20 weeks to as early as 6 weeks — has struck them down as clear constitutional violations, and the Supreme Court has repeatedly declined to review those decisions.
In 2013, the Center litigated a six-week ban passed by North Dakota in federal court. The Center won at the district court level, and the U.S. Supreme Court subsequently declined to hear the case. In 2016, the Supreme Court refused to review a 12-week ban in Arkansas that had been struck down by a lower court. And in 2014, the Court refused to review Arizona’s ban on abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy after it had been declared unconstitutional, letting stand a Ninth Circuit ruling that called the law “unconstitutional under an unbroken stream of Supreme Court authority, beginning with Roe and ending with Gonzales [v. Carhart].”
Most recently, the Center challenged a six week ban in Mississippi. A federal district court granted a preliminary injunction to temporarily block the law last month. The ACLU has challenged similar abortion bans in Kentucky and Ohio, and a near total ban in Alabama, among other litigation.
The Center has won every pre-viability ban case that it has brought – and we’re suing Georgia to make sure this law has the same fate. The lawsuit requests a preliminary injunction to prevent HB 481 from taking effect, which would otherwise happen on January 1, 2020.
The Center and its partners are suing on behalf of a wide-range of health providers, including 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, Columbus Women’s Health Organization, P.C., Summit Medical Associates, P.C., Carrie Cwiak, M.D., M.P.H., Lisa Haddad, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., and Eva Lathrop, M.D., M.P.H.
The Center for Reproductive Rights is represented by Julie Rikelman, Emily Nester and Kirby Tyrrell.