In his decision of November 15, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney determined that the so-called “heartbeat law” was unconstitutional when it went into effect in 2019 because the prevailing law of Roe against Wade prohibited abortion prohibits pre-viability. After his ruling, access to abortion in Georgia returned to pre-ban levels of up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
After Roe against Wade was overturned in June, states were free to enact laws prohibiting abortion before the fetus was viable. In states such as Georgia, abortion bans were enacted after six weeks, which is the earliest fetal cardiac electrical activity — distinct from the heartbeat of a fully formed organ — can be detected.
While Wednesday’s order isn’t the final word on the state’s abortion law, issuing the order immediately reinstated the six-week ban. The court denied a request from abortion providers to give 24 hours’ notice before reinstating the ban.
Georgia Governor Signs ‘Heartbeat Bill’, Giving the State One of the Most Restrictive Abortion Laws in the Country
Abortion rights groups have criticized Georgia’s law as extreme, noting that abortion is often banned before people know they are pregnant. Victims who want an abortion because of rape or incest must report it to the police to get an exemption.
A spokesman for Attorney General Chris Carr (R) said Wednesday that the office welcomed the news.
“We are pleased with the Court’s action today. However, we are unable to comment further due to the pending appeal,” Kara Richardson, a spokesperson for Carr’s office, said in an email.
The abortion clinics and reproductive rights groups belonging to the plaintiffs criticized the decision, saying it once again upended the lives of Georgians seeking access to abortion.
“It is outrageous that this extreme law is back in force just days after it was rightly 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 frantically seeking the abortion services they need.”
When the lower court overturned the ban last week, both parties were fully aware that the decision was provisional. Georgia’s abortion providers cautiously resume scheduling abortions up to 22 weeks, while anti-abortion lawmakers such as Georgia Representative Ed Setzler (R), who drafted the state’s abortion law, overruled last week’s lower court ruling. brushed aside and accurately predicted that it would soon be overturned by the state Supreme Court.
The future of Georgia’s abortion law will likely be decided in court rather than at Georgia’s statehouse, where political analysts and historians say lawmakers are weary from the bitter 2019 session — where the six-week ban was overturned by a single vote. adopted – and ready to tackle other legislative priorities.
Add to that the recent run of midterm elections that demonstrated the widespread popularity of access to abortion.
Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia who specializes in Southern and legislative politics, said abortion bans in the increasingly purple state are likely to inflame deep red voters but could backfire on the state’s general population.
He cited a recent poll by the School of Public and International Affairs Survey Research Center at the University of Georgia that showed a majority of respondents opposed or strongly opposed the state’s six-week abortion ban.
“Statewide, this is not a winning issue,” he said of the abortion restrictions. While unlikely to affect local legislators in safe districts, fierce opposition to abortion rights could “bite again [lawmakers] when they try to make a run on the entire office.
Abortion has emerged as a major issue in the Georgia Senate race between incumbent Senator Raphael G. Warnock (D) and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, whose staunch public stance against abortion has been met with accusations from two women that they , while dating Walker, he pressured them to have abortions.
Georgia Republican analyst Brian Robinson said there will be a split among anti-abortion Republicans if more abortion laws are forced into the chambers.
“There will be those who want us to go the way of Virginia, which we are fighting for [a ban at 15-weeks]and some who want to stick to the ‘heartbeat’ standard — and some who favor a full ban,” Robinson said.
But even for those whose opposition to abortion stems from what Robinson said were sincere beliefs about the sanctity of life, they live in a political context.
“It’s not a debate they’re eager to have,” he said. “Right now they prefer to talk about solutions to our economy and crime.”