State Supreme Court upholds Georgia’s ban on abortions at 6 weeks

Controversial heartbeat bill has been at the center of numerous legal battles
GA Supreme Court reinstates abortion ban
Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 12:04 PM EST|Updated: Nov. 23, 2022 at 1:23 PM EST
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ATLANTA, Ga. (Atlanta News First) - The Georgia Supreme Court has reinstated the state’s controversial ban on abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy.

The court announced its ruling late Wednesday morning.

Planned Parenthood released a statement saying the court denied their request to give 24 hours notice before reinstating the ban. They stated patients in waiting rooms for the procedure were turned away.

Megan Gordon-Kane works for one of the 14 clinics in the state that perform abortions -- the Feminist Women Health Center. Gordon-Kane said the clinic had to call patients and cancel their upcoming appointments.

“This is not a final ruling. Although all the Supreme Court has said at this point is that the abortion ban will stay in effect while we continue to argue about whether it’s constitutional under Georgia State Constitution,” said Gordon-Kane.

Earlier this month, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ruled the so-called heartbeat bill violated the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent when it was enacted three years ago and was therefore void. McBurney’s ruling, according to the Associated Press, took effect immediately statewide, though the state attorney general’s office said it filed an appeal. The ban had been in effect since July.

Opponents of the law argued Georgia’s ban was void from the start under the Georgia Constitution because, they say, it violated federal constitutional precedent when enacted in 2019.

Doctors and advocates are asking the state court to permanently block the law.

Attorneys for the state have argued that the law is constitutional and that privacy protections do not extend to abortion because it affects another “human life.”

Earlier this year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mississippi’s abortion law that bans the procedure after 15 weeks. The court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization essentially states there is no constitutional right to abortion services, and thus allows individual states to more heavily regulate or ban the procedure. The ruling essentially overturned 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.

RELATED: Key organizations react to Georgia’s abortion ban ruling

State Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) drafted the original Georgia House Bill 481 in 2019 that banned abortions after six weeks. At the time of McBurney’s ruling, Setzler said he believed the state Supreme Court would 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 nonsense. It wouldn’t pass a middle school level of scrutiny, and I don’t think it will pass our state supreme court.”

The ruling comes only hours before early voting begins throughout the state in Georgia’s U.S. Senate runoff between Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker. Abortion has been at the forefront of every 2022 midterm election in not only Georgia but the entire nation, and is all but certain to once again be propelled to the forefront in the runoff’s final days.