Georgia 6-week abortion ban reinstated by state supreme court

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The Georgia Supreme Court reinstated the state’s ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, just one week after a Fulton County judge struck down the law.

In response to an emergency petition from the state, the high court issued a one-page order Wednesday that puts the lower court’s ruling last week on hold while it considers an appeal.

In his Nov. 15 decision, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ruled that the so-called “heartbeat law” was unconstitutional when it was enacted in 2019 because of prevailing law. Rua v. Wade pre-viability abortion ban. After its ruling, access to abortion in Georgia returned to the pre-ban level up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.

After Rua v. Wade repealed in June, states were allowed to enact laws that prohibited abortion before fetal viability. In states such as Georgia, abortion bans have been enacted at six weeks, which is the earliest that fetal cardiac electrical activity – as distinct from the heartbeat of a fully formed organ – can be detected.

While Wednesday’s order is not the final word on the state’s abortion law, the issuance of the order put the six-week ban back into effect immediately. The court rejected a request by abortion providers to give 24 hours notice before reversing the ban.

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Georgia governor signs ‘heartbeat bill’, giving state one of nation’s most restrictive abortion laws

Abortion rights groups have criticized the Georgia law as an extreme law, noting that it prohibits abortions before people often know they are pregnant. Victims seeking an abortion due to rape or female genital mutilation are required to file a police report of the assault to obtain the exemption.

A spokesman for Attorney General Chris Carr (R) said Wednesday that the office welcomed the news.

“We are happy with the Court’s action today. However, we are unable to comment further due to the pending appeal,” Kara Richardson, a spokeswoman for Carr’s office, said in an email.

Abortion clinics and reproductive rights groups that are among the plaintiffs criticized the decision, saying it once again cost Georgians lives seeking access to abortion.

“It’s shocking that this extreme law is back in place, just days after it was properly blocked,” Alice Wang, a staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “This legal ping pong is causing chaos for medical providers trying to do their jobs and for patients who are now left frantically searching for the abortion services they need.”

When the lower court overturned the ban last week, both sides were well aware that the decision was tentative. Georgia abortion providers cautiously resumed scheduling abortions up to 22 weeks, and anti-abortion lawmakers such as Georgia Rep. Ed Setzler (R), who authored the state’s abortion law, softened last week’s lower court ruling, accurately predicting it would be quickly overturned. the state Supreme Court.

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The future of Georgia’s abortion law is likely to be decided in court rather than in the state of Georgia, where political analysts and historians say lawmakers are buoyed by a bitter 2019 session — when the six-week ban passed by a single vote – and they are ready. address other legislative priorities.

Add to that the recent string of midterm election victories that demonstrated the widespread popularity of abortion access.

Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia who specializes in Southern politics and legislation, said abortion bans in the increasingly purple state would likely galvanize deep-red base voters, but could backfire with population. the whole of the state.

He cited a recent poll by the Survey Research Center of the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Georgia that found a majority of respondents opposed or strongly opposed the state’s six-week ban on abortion.

“Nationwide, this is not a win-win issue,” he said of the abortion restrictions. While that’s unlikely to sway local legislators in safe districts, opposition to abortion rights “could come back to bite [lawmakers] if they try to run for statewide office.”

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Abortion has emerged as a major issue in the Georgia Senate race between incumbent Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, whose staunch public stance against abortion has come under fire from allegations by two women that were in a relationship with Walker, he pressured them to have an abortion.

Georgia Republican analyst Brian Robinson said forcing more abortion laws back into the chambers will create a split among pro-abortion Republicans.

“You’re going to have some who want us to go toward Virginia, which is struggling [a ban at 15-weeks]and some who will want to adhere to the ‘heartbeat’ standard – and some who will favor a total ban,” said Robinson.

But even for those whose opposition to abortion is due to what Robinson said was a true believer in the sanctity of life, they live in a political context.

“It’s not a debate they want to have,” he said. “Right now, their favorite thing to talk about and message about is solutions to our economy and crime.”

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