Judge considers whether to block Georgia abortion law again

Heartbeat Law Faces First Legal Challenge
Published: Aug. 8, 2022 at 9:25 AM EDT|Updated: Aug. 9, 2022 at 6:56 AM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - A judge is considering whether Georgia officials should once again be prohibited from enforcing the state’s restrictive abortion law while a legal challenge against it is pending.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney heard arguments Monday from lawyers for the state and for doctors and advocacy groups who filed a lawsuit last month challenging the law. He said he needed to think about the issues but that he would issue a ruling soon.

The lawsuit was filed by SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Coalition, a group of organizations that had earlier, and successfully, filed an injunction against the 2019-approved bill, also known as the “heartbeat bill.” That injunction was lifted by the 11th Circuit Court Appeals after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mississippi’s abortion law that bans the procedure after 15 weeks.

That decision, announced June 24, essentially overturns Roe v. Wade, the court’s landmark 1973 ruling, which ruled a pregnant woman has the right to choose to an abortion without excessive government restriction.

The challenge said Georgia’s six-week abortion law was void from the start under Georgia judicial precedent because it violated federal constitutional precedent when enacted in 2019, and a subsequent change in federal law cannot revive it. The lawsuit also said, “the Georgia Constitution’s especially strong protection for the fundamental right to privacy prohibits this political interference with an individual’s deeply personal and medically consequential decision whether to continue a pregnancy.”

The challenge is asking the state to immediately block the law while this new lawsuit proceeds in the courts.

The plaintiffs said they have filed a temporary restraining order, which, if approved by a superior court judge, could temporarily block the abortion ban.

Groups participating in the challenge include the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Georgia; Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Southeast; the Atlanta Comprehensive Wellness Clinic; the Atlanta Women’s Medical Center, and others.

A news release accompanying the challenge said, “a six-week abortion ban is particularly dangerous in Georgia, where the maternal mortality rate is alarmingly high, especially among Black Georgians. Additionally, forced pregnancy can derail people’s education, career, and life plans, resulting in greater economic hardship for the pregnant person, their children, and their families.”

Monday’s hearing focused on whether the judge has the power to block the law temporarily while the litigation plays out and whether the law was invalid from the start because it violated the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent when it was enacted.

Abortion in Georgia had been legal up to 20 weeks after conception.