Georgia clinics that offer abortions face greater uncertainty as another round of federal lawsuits is pending over a commonly used drug for medical abortion and early pregnancy loss.
Meanwhile, the Georgia Supreme Court is also expected to rule soon in a lawsuit challenging the state’s abortion restrictions, which prohibit the procedure at around the sixth week of pregnancy.
Judges on the Georgia Supreme Court heard hearings in the case last month.
They rule on whether Georgia’s abortion law, HB 481, is unconstitutional under the state constitution, since the law was passed in 2019 when the federal level Roe vs. Wade abortion protections were still in effect.
Julia Stone, a partner at Caplan Cobb law firm, represented the plaintiffs, a coalition of doctors and abortion rights groups. In court, she advocated a state doctrine that states that a law that was invalid at the time it was passed cannot be enforced.
“Had the trial been initiated in 2019,” she said, “this court would have had no choice but to annul it.” And emptiness is not something that can change over time.”
The state disagreed, arguing that the 2019 abortion law was valid and should continue to be enforced in the state since Roe was now repealed.
“When a decision is overturned, it is not a declaration by that court or by the United States Supreme Court that the underlying Constitution has changed. “It’s a declaration that the court was wrong,” Attorney General Stephen Petrany argued in court.
Alexander Volokh, an assistant professor of law at Emory Law School, said the state’s argument is quite strong.
“If a law is unconstitutional, it will not be struck from the code. Unconstitutionality simply means that it cannot be enforced. So that’s a limitation of the law. And sometimes that limitation may exist, but if the U.S. Supreme Court changes its mind, that limitation will be lifted,” he said. “We always assume that if you pass a law to test a regime and then the court changes its mind and declares it legal, you benefit from the law you passed.”
mifepristone challenges and Georgia
Mifepristone is an important drug for medical abortions, and more than half of all abortions in the US are performed this way. The drug is also used in combination with a second drug, misoprostol, to treat miscarriage.
There have been a number of federal court rulings in the last week. First, a Texas judge blocked FDA approval of mifepristone, which was approved more than two decades ago. The case went to an appeals court, which said the FDA approval could not be appealed.
The Court of Appeal ruled that mifepristone could remain authorized up to the seventh week of pregnancy. The drug was previously approved for pregnancy up to 10 weeks gestation.
The court also ruled that it could not be sent by post.
Now the US Department of Justice is asking the US Supreme Court to get involved.
“The number and complexity of these judgments creates a great deal of confusion. We want to make sure people know that medical abortion is safe and effective, and that they can continue to access abortion care in Georgia,” said Allison Coffman, director of Amplify GA, a statewide coalition of rights groups and providers belong to abortion.
Since the US Supreme Court Roe v. Wade last summer, Georgia clinics that offer abortions have won a series of lawsuits in state courts, turning away patients whose pregnancy lasts longer than about six weeks when cardiac activity can be detected in the womb.
Coffman said that because Georgia law restricts abortions at about six weeks, the federal court-set limit for mifepristone at seven weeks of gestation is unlikely to change for the time being for access to medical abortion in Georgia.
But she said if the Court of Appeals ruling banning pill mailing stands up, it would put an extra burden on Georgia patients trying to terminate a pregnancy.
“The ban on shipping pills is worrying,” she said. “Since the FDA has allowed mifepristone to be shipped, many people have come to rely on this service to access medical care. This is especially true for people who live far away from clinics.”
Some Republican state legislatures have previously attempted, and failed, to ban the shipping of abortion drugs through the state mail during the last General Assembly term.
In response to the federal judge’s decision to halt FDA approval for mifepristone, hundreds of U.S. drug company officials added their names to a statement supporting the FDA’s power to regulate drugs.
“I mean, FDA approval is what makes it easier for manufacturers to produce in this country or ship to this country,” Volokh said, “because if you deal in unapproved drugs, there can be very severe criminal penalties.” .”
Now, opponents and proponents of access to abortion in Georgia are awaiting a soon-to-be-anticipated decision by the state Supreme Court on the six-week abortion ban.
Whatever the outcome, plaintiffs in the case say they will continue to fight to maintain access to abortion in Georgia.