A Georgia judge overturns the state’s six-week abortion ban

NOVEMBER 15 (Reuters) – A law in Georgia banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy cannot be enforced, a state judge ruled on Tuesday, handing down Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups, which challenged the restriction when they moved to Georgia this summer entered into force, a victory.

Judge Robert McBurney of the Superior Court of Fulton County said at the time of its passage in 2019, the law was in Roe v. Wade of the US Supreme Court, which established a federal right to abortion in 1973, has been void.

McBurney said the state would have to re-enact the law after the Supreme Court overthrew Roe for the ban to stand. The 2019 law was “clearly unconstitutional at the time it was drafted, voted and enacted,” McBurney wrote in his statement.

The law banned abortion after fetal heart activity was detected, typically around six weeks after pregnancy and often before a woman knows she is pregnant. It made exceptions for abortions to save the life of the mother and for rapes, which are reported to the police.

It had been blocked under Roe but went into effect in July after the US Supreme Court’s June ruling gave states the power to limit abortions of any scope.

After lifting the six-week ban, Georgia now allows abortions for up to 22 weeks, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a reproductive rights research group.

“After a long road, we can finally celebrate the end of an extreme abortion ban in our state,” said Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, the lead plaintiff in the case.

A spokesman for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, said the state had “already filed an appeal letter” Tuesday afternoon and will “continue to fight for the lives of Georgia’s unborn children.”

McBurney did not rule on whether the law violated the Georgia Constitution, leaving open the possibility that state legislatures could pass the same laws in the future.

Around a dozen states have since the end of Roe v. Wade pushed through near-total abortion bans, many including Georgia in the southeastern United States.

Abortion rights advocates argued before the judge in October that the law violated Georgians’ basic rights to liberty and privacy under the state’s constitution and endangered women’s health.

Reporting by Gabriella Borter in Washington and Brendan Pierson in New York; Edited by Colleen Jenkins, Bill Berkrot and David Gregorio

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Brendan Pierson

Thomson Reuters

Brendan Pierson covers product liability litigation and all aspects of healthcare law. He can be reached at brendan.pierson@thomsonreuters.com.