Judge overturns Georgia’s ban on abortion around 6 weeks

Nov 15, 2022, 11:07 AM | Updated: Nov 16, 2022, 2:58 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 judge overturned Georgia’s ban on abortion starting around six weeks into a pregnancy, ruling Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2022 that it violated the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent when it was enacted. (AP Photo/Ben Gray, File)

(AP Photo/Ben Gray, File)

ATLANTA (AP) — A judge overturned Georgia’s ban on abortion starting around six weeks into a pregnancy, ruling Tuesday that it violated the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent when it was enacted three years ago and was therefore void.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney’s ruling took effect immediately statewide, though the state attorney general’s office said it filed an appeal. The ban had been in effect since July.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, which represented doctors and advocacy groups that had asked McBurney to throw out the law, said it expects abortions past six weeks of pregnancy to resume Wednesday at some clinics.

Their lawsuit, filed in July, sought to strike down the ban on multiple grounds, including that it violates the Georgia Constitution’s right to privacy and liberty by forcing pregnancy and childbirth on women in the state. McBurney did not rule on that claim.

Instead, his decision agreed with a different argument made in the lawsuit — that the ban was invalid because when it was signed into law in 2019, U.S. Supreme Court precedent under Roe. v. Wade and another ruling allowed abortion well past six weeks.

Kara Richardson, a spokesperson for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, said in an email that the office filed a notice of appeal and “will continue to fulfill our duty to defend the laws of our state in court.”

Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said Tuesday was a “great day for Georgia women and for all Georgians.”

“Today their right to make decisions for their own bodies, health, and families is vindicated,” Young said in a statement.

Andrew Isenhour, a spokesperson for Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, said McBurney’s ruling placed “the personal beliefs of a judge over the will of the legislature and people of Georgia.”

“The state has already filed a notice of appeal, and we will continue to fight for the lives of Georgia’s unborn children,” he said in a statement.

Rep. Ed Setzler, the Republican from Atlanta suburb of Acworth who sponsored the law, said he was confident the state Supreme Court would overrule McBurney and reinstate the ban.

The law prohibited most abortions once a “detectable human heartbeat” was present. Cardiac activity can be detected by ultrasound in cells within an embryo that will eventually become the heart around six weeks into a pregnancy. That means most abortions in Georgia were effectively banned at a point before many people knew they were pregnant.

Georgia’s law was passed by state lawmakers and signed by Kemp in 2019 but 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.

Abortion clinics remained open, but providers said they were turning many people away because cardiac activity had been detected. They could then either travel to another state for an abortion or continue with their pregnancies.

During a two-day trial in October, abortion providers told McBurney the ban was distressing women denied the procedure and confusing doctors.

McBurney wrote in his ruling that when the law was enacted, “everywhere in America, including Georgia, it was unequivocally unconstitutional for governments — federal, state, or local — to ban abortions before viability.”

Therefore, the state’s law “did not become the law of Georgia when it was enacted and it is not the law of Georgia now,” he wrote.

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

McBurney did leave the door open for the legislature to revisit the ban.

Now that the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, the prohibition on abortions provided for in the 2019 law “may someday become the law of Georgia,” he wrote.

But, he wrote, that can happen only after the General Assembly “determines in the sharp glare of public attention that will undoubtedly and properly attend such an important and consequential debate whether the rights of unborn children justify such a restriction on women’s right to bodily autonomy and privacy.”

Georgia’s ban included exceptions for rape and incest, as long as a police report was filed, and allowed for later abortions when the mother’s life was at risk or a serious medical condition rendered a fetus unviable.

At the October trial, witnesses for the state disputed the claim that the law was unclear about when doctors could intervene to perform a later abortion. They also argued that abortions themselves could harm women.

Abortion was a central issue in Georgia’s U.S. Senate contest between Democrat Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker, which is now headed to a runoff in December. Two women accused Walker, who opposes abortion, of paying for them to have the procedure. Walker vehemently denied that.

___

Associated Press writers Kate Brumback and Jeff Amy contributed to this report.

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

AP

FILE - This image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) sho...
Associated Press

US plans end to mpox public health emergency in January

WASHINGTON (AP) — The federal government plans to end in January the public health emergency it declared earlier this year after an outbreak of mpox infected more than 29,000 people across the U.S. Mpox cases have plummeted in recent weeks, with just a handful of new infections being reported every week in the month of […]
16 hours ago
FILE - A Dixie Valley toad sits atop grass in Dixie Valley, Nev., on April 6, 2009. The tiny Nevada...
Associated Press

Endangered listing for Nevada toad in geothermal power fight

RENO, Nev. (AP) — A tiny Nevada toad at the center of a legal battle over a geothermal power project has officially been declared an endangered species after U.S. wildlife officials temporarily listed it on a rarely-used emergency basis last spring. “This ruling makes final the listing of the Dixie Valley toad,” the U.S. Fish […]
16 hours ago
FILE - Tennessee Valley Authority President Jeffrey Lyash speaks with the Times Free Press from the...
Associated Press

Utility recommends natural gas plant despite objections

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The nation’s largest public utility on Friday recommended replacing an aging coal burning power plant with natural gas, ignoring calls for the Tennessee Valley Authority to speed its transition to renewable energy. TVA announced the completion of its environmental impact statement for replacing the Cumberland Fossil Plant near Cumberland City, Tennessee. […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

How major US stock indexes fared Friday 12/2/2022

Worries about inflation weighed on Wall Street, leaving major indexes mixed after another bumpy day of trading. A government report showing that wage growth accelerated last month spooked investors since it could mean the Federal Reserve will be less able to ease up on its fight against inflation. The yield on the two-year Treasury, which […]
16 hours ago
FILE - Former film producer Harvey Weinstein appears in court at the Clara Shortridge Foltz Crimina...
Associated Press

Jury to begin deliberations at Harvey Weinstein rape trial

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The jury has received the case and are set to begin deliberations Friday afternoon in the Los Angeles trial of Harvey Weinstein. Jurors will have to decide on two rape counts and five other sexual assault counts after hearing more than four weeks of evidence in the trial of the 70-year-old […]
16 hours ago
Associated Press

Marvell, Veeva fall; Smartsheet, PagerDuty rise

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks that traded heavily or had substantial price changes Friday: Marvell Technology Inc., down 68 cents to $44.72. The chipmaker gave investors a weak financial forecast. UiPath Inc., up $1.61 to $14.53. The enterprise automation software developer reported strong third-quarter earnings and revenue. Veeva Systems Inc., down $16.52 to $174.90. The […]
16 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Children’s Cancer Network

Children’s Cancer Network celebrates cancer-fighting superheroes, raises funds during September’s Childhood Cancer Awareness Month

Jace Hyduchak was like most other kids in his kindergarten class: He loved to play basketball, dress up like his favorite superheroes and jump as high as his pint-sized body would take him on his backyard trampoline.
...
SCHWARTZ LASER EYE CENTER

Key dates for Arizona sports fans to look forward to this fall

Fall brings new beginnings in different ways for Arizona’s professional sports teams like the Cardinals and Coyotes.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Here are 4 signs the HVAC unit needs to be replaced

Pool renovations and kitchen upgrades may seem enticing, but at the forefront of these investments arguably should be what residents use the most. In a state where summertime is sweltering, access to a functioning HVAC unit can be critical.
Judge overturns Georgia’s ban on abortion around 6 weeks