A Fulton County Judge blocks Georgia’s abortion ban. What happens next?

Published: Nov. 15, 2022 at 10:45 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - 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.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney’s ruling applies statewide. So now the question is, what happens next?

It means, immediately, that women can now seek abortions in Georgia up to around 20 weeks of pregnancy rather than six. But at least one republican lawmaker thinks this will only be a temporary.

Ed Setzler, who represents district 37 (Kennesaw, Acworth, and West Cobb), drafted the original Georgia House Bill 481 in 2019 that banned abortions after 6 weeks. It became law after the United States Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last summer.

Setzler thinks the State Supreme Court will reverse the decision.

“Sadly, it’s no surprise that a liberal judge in Fulton County is going to try and put a roadblock from implementing a very solid, sound, thoughtful, pro-life law,” Setzler said. “The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on this on the federal constitutional question and put this into full effect on July 20th. The fact that a state judge in Fulton County can cite the U.S. Constitution as the basis for overturning this is non-sense. It wouldn’t pass a middle school level of scrutiny, and I don’t think it will pass our state supreme court.”

But, in Judge McBurney’s 15-page ruling he said this was “all about timing.”

At the time that HB 481 was enacted, it was unconstitutional for federal, state, or local government to ban abortion before viability. And yet the bill did just that. Meaning because it was unconstitutional when it passed, that makes it void now.

Attorney Jen Jordan, a democrat who recently ran to be Georgia’s Attorney General, says if republicans lose the appeal against Judge McBurney’s decision, lawmakers can rewrite the bill in the upcoming legislative session.

“This isn’t a matter of some kind of activist judge doing something that he shouldn’t be doing. This really is about the legislature acting in a way that was unconstitutional at the time,” Jordan said “There’s an easy fix with respect to this. It’s not even an appeal. If you think you’ve got the votes, then you can just pass it back through the legislature.”