Federal Court Says Georgia ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Law Should Be Allowed To Take Effect

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The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has lifted the injunction on Georgia’s controversial abortion bill.

The court’s decision comes 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 an abortion without excessive government restriction.

“We vacate the injunction, reverse the judgment in favor of the abortionists, and remand with instructions to enter judgment in favor of the state officials,” the court announced on Wednesday.

In the ruling, the 11th circuit cited the Supreme Court’s decision and its ruling that “the Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.”

“Georgia’s prohibition on abortions after detectable human heartbeat is rational,” the ruling continued. “Respect for and preservation of prenatal life at all stages of development” is a legitimate interest.”

On the day of the Supreme Court’s decision, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr requested the 11th circuit to lift the injunction that had been filed against the bill, which was passed in 2019 by the Georgia General Assembly. The law, also known as the “heartbeat bill,” had been tied up in courts since Gov. Brian Kemp signed the measure into law.

“I believe in the dignity, value, and worth of every human being, both born and unborn,” Carr said in a June 24 statement. “The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs is constitutionally correct and rightfully returns the issue of abortion to the states and to the people – where it belongs. We have just filed a notice in the 11th Circuit requesting it reverse the District Court’s decision and allow Georgia’s Heartbeat Law to take effect.”

The 11th circuit court had been waiting on a final ruling until the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

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

On Friday, Fulton County DA Fani Willis and the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Counsel filed a brief with the 11th circuit, asking the court to return the case to lower courts so the heartbeat law could be further discussed “in a post-Dobbs context,” according to the brief.

In the document submitted by Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell & Berkowitz, PC, the brief said, “As such, while District Attorney Willis did not assert any affirmative claims in the underlying litigation, District Attorney Willis believes that this case should be returned to the lower court to allow the parties the opportunity to address the merits of the claims in a post-Dobbs context.”

The filing went on to say, “District Attorney Willis does not believe that Dobbs has an impact on those aspects of the Judgment that addressed vagueness in the challenged law.”

“Countless issues where we have no idea how the law would apply to these areas. We don’t even really necessarily know where they would apply and that creates a procedural due process problem,” said Shlomo Pill, an Emory University constitutional law lecturer.

Atlanta city council members and also the Dekalb County District Attorney have said they do not plan on allocating any resources from the police department or courts in prosecuting abortion cases as a crime.

Carr, a Republican, is facing a challenge from Democrat Jen Jordan in November’s nationally watch Attorney General’s race. Jordan, a state senator from metro Atlanta, is a strong opponent of Georgia’s now-legal abortion law.

At least one group that was actively involved in opposing the bill has no plans at present to challenge the law in court.

“We’re approaching this decision from an organizing standpoint,” said Tangi Bush, legal affairs director for New Georgia Project. “There may be other organizations that are planning to challenge the law, but we plan to use this to help organize and educate voters about the elections this fall in the November midterms.”

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