Judge hears testimony in bid to strike Georgia abortion law

Oct 23, 2022, 10:04 PM | Updated: Oct 26, 2022, 2:10 am
FILE - A small group, including Stephanie Batchelor, left, sits on the steps of the Georgia state C...

FILE - A small group, including Stephanie Batchelor, left, sits on the steps of the Georgia state Capitol protesting the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 26, 2022. A trial to determine whether Georgia can continue to ban abortion as early as six weeks into a pregnancy is set to begin in an Atlanta courtroom on Monday, Oct. 24, 2022. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, File)

(AP Photo/Ben Gray, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia’s ban on abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy is causing distress among women denied the procedure and confusion among doctors, an abortion provider testified Monday on the first day of a trial to determine whether the state can continue enforcing the restriction.

Carrie Cwiak, a plaintiff in a lawsuit that seeks to strike down the law, said women who have learned they are past the time period when abortion is allowed under state law have wondered out loud what they will do next.

“It’s upsetting,” Cwiak, a gynecology professor at the Emory University School of Medicine, said. “It’s emotional.”

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney has scheduled two days of testimony in the lawsuit, which argues the ban violates the Georgia Constitution’s right to privacy and liberty by “forcing pregnancy and childbirth upon countless Georgians.” He will then issue a ruling, though he said Monday that it will not happen until after Nov. 8.

Georgia’s law bans most abortions once a “detectable human heartbeat” is present. Cardiac activity can be detected by ultrasound in cells within an embryo that will eventually become the heart as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That means most abortions in Georgia are effectively banned at a point before many women know they are pregnant.

The law includes exceptions for rape and incest, as long as a police report is filed, and allows for later abortions when the mother’s life is at risk or a serious medical condition renders a fetus unviable.

Cwiak said the law, however, does not provide clear guidance about when doctors can intervene. The potential penalty for an error is also chilling, she said.

“The fact that the bill has as the consequence criminal prosecution if you have a different interpretation than the legal interpretation, that’s very distressing to physicians,” she said.

Under questioning by Christopher Bartolomucci, an attorney representing the state, Cwiak acknowledged that she did not know of any doctors who had been prosecuted for performing an abortion for a medical emergency. Bartolomucci, in an effort to discredit Cwiak, also raised her previous tweets, including one in which she slammed conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court using an expletive in the context of their decision to overturn Roe v. Wade.

The state attorney general’s office said in a court filing that Georgia’s privacy protections do not extend to abortion because it affects another “human life.”

“There is a third party involved,” Georgia Solicitor General Stephen Petrany told McBurney.

McBurney pushed back on that argument by raising the hypothetical example of a young girl who is raped by her stepdad and becomes pregnant, but is too afraid to report the crime.

He said he wasn’t sure that the girl’s right to privacy would totally cease to exist.

But he also asked an attorney for the plaintiffs to address the state Legislature’s desire to treat the embryo as a person.

“That’s where I’m wrestling right now,” he said.

The judge heard from two more plaintiffs’ experts, including Whitney Rice, a public health researcher at Emory University who testified that she expects Georgia’s abortion ban to disproportionately harm Black women. The trial will continue Tuesday.

The doctors and advocacy groups that filed the lawsuit in July also argue the law was invalid from the start because it violated the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent when it was enacted.

Georgia’s law was passed by state lawmakers and signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019 but it had been blocked from taking effect until the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had protected the right to an abortion for nearly 50 years. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Georgia to begin enforcing its abortion law just over three weeks after the high court’s decision in June.

The state has argued that the Roe decision itself was wrong and the Supreme Court ruling wiped it out of existence.

In August, McBurney rejected a request by the plaintiffs to immediately block the abortion law while the lawsuit was pending, though he stressed that decision did not touch on the merits of the case. Earlier this month, he denied a request by state officials to postpone the trial.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

FILE - An election worker verifies a ballot on a screen inside the Maricopa County Recorders Office...
Associated Press

NOT REAL NEWS: A look at what didn’t happen this week

A roundup of some of the most popular but completely untrue stories and visuals of the week. None of these are legit, even though they were shared widely on social media. The Associated Press checked them out. Here are the facts: ___ Arizona election equipment was certified ahead of midterms CLAIM: Election equipment in Arizona […]
10 hours ago
FILE - Former President Donald Trump announces a third run for president as he speaks at Mar-a-Lago...
Associated Press

Prosecution resumes closing argument at Trump Org. trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Prosecutors resumed their closing argument Friday in the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud trial, promising to share previously unrevealed details about Donald Trump’s knowledge of a tax dodge scheme hatched by one of his top executives. “Donald Trump knew exactly what was going on with his top executives,” Assistant Manhattan District […]
10 hours ago
FILE - The FTX logo appears on home plate umpire Jansen Visconti's jacket at a baseball game with t...
Associated Press

The pandemic, Karens, crypto craziness: We’re over you, 2022

NEW YORK (AP) — The rudeness pandemic, the actual pandemic and all things gray. There’s a lot to leave behind when 2022 comes to a close as uncertainty rules around the world. The health crisis brought on the dawn of slow living, but it crushed many families forced to hustle for their lives. Karens went […]
10 hours ago
Residents wearing masks cross an intersection in Beijing, Friday, Dec. 2, 2022. More cities eased r...
Associated Press

WHO pleased to see China ease harsh zero COVID policies

LONDON (AP) — A top official at the World Health Organization said the U.N. agency was “pleased” to see China loosening some of its coronavirus restrictions, saying “it’s really important that governments listen to their people when the people are in pain.” At a press briefing on Friday, WHO emergencies director Dr. Michael Ryan said […]
10 hours ago
Associated Press

Top exec at pharmacy in deadly meningitis outbreak sentenced

BOSTON (AP) — A former co-owner of a Massachusetts compounding pharmacy at the center of a nationwide fungal meningitis outbreak that resulted in more than 100 patient deaths has been sentenced to a year in prison for conspiring to defraud the federal government. Gregory Conigliaro, 57, as the vice president and general manager of the […]
10 hours ago
FILE - Paul Whelan, a former U.S. marine who was arrested for alleged spying, listens to the verdic...
Associated Press

Brother of Russia-imprisoned American says contact resumed

MOSCOW (AP) — The family of Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia for espionage, said Friday that he has resumed contact after unexpectedly becoming unreachable in November. Along with WNBA star Brittney Griner, Whelan is the focus of efforts by the United States to arrange a prisoner swap with Russia. The Associated Press and […]
10 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
Judge hears testimony in bid to strike Georgia abortion law