ATLANTA (AP) — A judge is considering whether Georgian officials should be barred again from enforcing the state’s restrictive abortion law pending a court challenge.
Fulton County Superior Court Justice Robert McBurney on Monday listened to arguments from state attorneys, as well as doctors and advocacy groups who had filed a lawsuit challenging the law. He said he needs to think about the issues but will make a decision soon.
“I understand this is something that needs immediate attention and I will do that,” McBurney said at the end of the hearing.
The hearing focused on whether the judge has the power to temporarily block the law while the trial is ongoing and whether the law was invalid in the first place because it violated the US Constitution and the precedent of the colonel when it was passed United States Court of Justice.
Georgia’s law was passed by state legislatures in 2019 and signed into law by Republican Governor Brian Kemp, but its entry into force has been blocked. The 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals last month allowed the state to begin enforcement, just over three weeks after US Supreme Court Roe v. Wade, which had protected abortion rights for nearly 50 years.
The law bans most abortions once there is a “detectable human heartbeat.” Heart activity can be detected as early as the sixth week of pregnancy by ultrasound in the cells of an embryo that will eventually become the heart. This means that most abortions in Georgia are banned before many women even know they are pregnant.
The law provides exceptions for rape and incest, provided a police report is filed, and allows later abortions when the mother’s life is in danger or a serious health condition makes the fetus unviable.
The new lawsuit against Georgia’s law was filed by doctors and advocacy groups on July 26, less than a week after the 11th district allowed the law to go into effect.
The doctors and advocacy groups are asking the judge to stop state officials from enforcing the abortion ban after about six weeks, as well as another provision of the law that allows prosecutors to see medical records without a subpoena while the litigation is pending.
The lawsuit argues that the law violates the “fundamental rights to liberty and privacy” of the Georgia Constitution, which it says are much broader than the rights granted in the US Constitution. It also alleges that the law is invalid because it violated the US Constitution at the time it was signed, and that Georgia case law means it must be re-enacted to become effective.
The state argues that the judge cannot stop enforcing the law while its constitutionality is challenged. The state also rejects the notion that the law was unconstitutional when it was passed, arguing that the Supreme Court’s recent ruling, which overturned the precedents that made it unconstitutional, was itself wrong.