Access to abortion in Georgia in unsafe condition;  Georgia, Florida, DC courts are considering bans

Abortion rights activists won a short-term victory on Friday when the US Supreme Court decided to continue allowing access to the abortion drug mifepristone amid a legal battle over its approval. However, Georgians on both sides of the matter expect the uncertain situation to continue to evolve.

“This decision extends an order that would stay dangerous lower court orders that would severely restrict access to mifepristone and jeopardize the FDA’s science-based drug approval process,” Georgia Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler said in a statement after the Decision. “But make no mistake – the approval of mifepristone is still very much at risk, and amidst the crisis in access to abortion, this drug needs to be protected.”

Claire Bartlett, executive director of the anti-abortion alliance Georgia Life Alliance, called the drug dangerous and untested and predicted a possible win.

“Our first concern is women’s health and safety,” she said. “Restricting mifepristone will be a win for women and their babies who are being hunted down by the abortion industry.”

Mifepristone is one of two drugs used to induce medical abortion that has replaced surgical abortion as the most common method in 2020. The pills were approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2000 and have been widely used ever since.

The Supreme Court decision allows women in Georgia to receive the pills up to six weeks into their pregnancy. However, with cases still pending in court and the possibility of a stricter ban in neighboring Florida, the future of timely access to abortions for Georgia patients remains uncertain.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation earlier this month introducing a six-week ban on abortion. However, the law cannot go into effect pending a state Supreme Court decision on a previously passed abortion law.

In 2019, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law the state’s own restrictive abortion law, which, like Florida’s, prohibits abortion in most cases after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, typically around the sixth week of pregnancy.

Abortion advocates say many women don’t even know they’re pregnant by the sixth week. Doctors measure pregnancy from the first day of the mother’s last menstrual period, so by the time of conception a woman can be about two weeks pregnant.

Georgian law remains in force as it is challenged in court. Abortion advocates say the law needs an overhaul because it was unconstitutional at the time it was passed. Proponents of the ban say it’s fair because Supreme Court Dobbs ruled last year that Roe v. Wade was wrong all along.

For women living in southern Georgia, clinics in Tallahassee or Jacksonville represent the closest available locations for an abortion, and this range extends further north for women seeking an abortion at six weeks.

The closest clinic to a woman in Decatur County in the southwest corner of the state is now about 40 miles away in the Tallahassee area, but if Florida law were to go into effect, the closest clinic would be to people after sixth weeks of gestation, a little further away 450 miles away, according to Caitlin Myers, an economics professor at Middlebury College in Vermont.

“It’s made it hard as hell to get a medical option that should be available to all women, especially Georgia country women,” said Melita Easters, executive director of the Georgia WIN List, a political action committee dedicated to empowering women Democrats vote who support abortion rights. “And you have to remember that half the counties in Georgia don’t have an OB/GYN. And that means women who may be pregnant have to travel another route to get normal medical care, let alone the ultrasound scan to determine how far along the pregnancy might be.”

Data suggests Georgia’s ban was preceded by a decline in the number of abortions in the state.

A Society of Family Planning study released this month found that the average number of abortions performed each month in Georgia fell by about 40% following the Dobbs decision. Between April and May, the average number of abortions performed was 4,235, falling to 2,558 between July and December, for an average monthly decrease of 1,822 and a total decrease of 10,930.

The politicians

Georgian Congressman Andrew Clyde was among 69 Republican congressmen who approved an amicus brief opposing the approval of mifepristone. Members said the pills were improperly tested by the FDA in 2000 and were unsafe.

“The FDA’s unlawful approval and deregulation of chemical abortion drugs undermines political considerations and congressional guarantees for patient safety,” the group wrote, urging judges to “protect women and girls from the harms of chemical abortion drugs.”

Both Georgia Senators and all five US Democratic Representatives signed another brief arguing that the FDA’s approval process is thorough and overseen by the Legislature.

The brief, signed by 253 members of Congress, said the attempt to overturn the agency’s decision “has no legal basis, jeopardizes the drug approval process mandated by Congress, and poses a serious health risk to pregnant individuals by making access to abortion more difficult.” .’ although the post-Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has already been seriously affected.”

A January poll by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution suggests that enacting tougher abortion bans in Georgia could be a difficult political endeavour. The poll found that 49% of Georgians think it should be easier to have an abortion. Another 24% said it should stay about the same and just 21% said it might get harder.

Easters predicts that new attempts to restrict access to abortion will divert more women from Republicans in future elections.

“We don’t know what the Georgia Supreme Court will do based on the hearings held in March on the legality of Georgia’s current six-week ban, but I believe the impact all this uncertainty about abortion and the situation in Georgia will have.” , is it legal or not, what does this or that judgment mean? Women are becoming much more aware of how dramatically different their medical autonomy and medical options are under this law,” she said.

“A lot of women are going to be really successful at supporting candidates, knocking on doors and writing checks over the next 12 months,” she added.