A judge in Georgia on Nov. 15 found the state’s ban on abortions unconstitutional and ordered authorities to stop enforcing it.
Georgia House Bill 481, known as the LIFE Act, declared that unborn children were living people with rights and banned abortions once a heartbeat was detected.
At the time it was enacted, though, key portions violated the U.S. Constitution and Supreme Court precedent, principally the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that concluded access to abortion was a constitutional right, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said in a 15-page ruling.
“At that time—the spring of 2019—everywhere in America, including Georgia, it was unequivocally unconstitutional for governments—federal, state, or local—to ban abortions before viability,” McBurney said. “And yet the LIFE Act, through Section 4, did just that: a doctor faced with a request to end a pre-viability pregnancy, i.e., at a time when the fetus absolutely could not survive outside the mother’s womb, would be committing a felony if she honored her patient’s wishes.”
A federal judge made the same decision in an earlier case but the order was overturned by an appeals court after the Supreme Court reversed Roe in its June ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Under Georgia law, however, the timing of a new law being enacted determines constitutional tests.
The Legislature may pass a new ban since Dobbs changed the Supreme Court precedent but “only after our Legislature 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,” McBurney said.
He declared that authorities are enjoined from enforcing the post-heartbeat ban on abortion. Authorities have to refer to an earlier law, which bans abortions after 19 weeks unless a doctor deems an abortion necessary to avert the death or “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman,” or to preserve the life of an unborn child.
The case against the ban was brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, and other groups.
“We celebrate this victory in Georgia that restores the right to abortion and reproductive freedom,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, said in a statement.
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr, a Republican, has filed notice to the state Supreme Court that he’ll appeal the ruling.
“We have filed a notice of appeal and will continue to fulfill our duty to defend the laws of our state in court,” Kara Richardson, a spokesperson for Carr, told The Epoch Times via email.
“Today’s ruling places the personal beliefs of a judge over the will of the legislature and people of Georgia,” the office of Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp stated. “The state has already filed a notice of appeal, and we will continue to fight for the lives of Georgia’s unborn children.”