The Supreme Court of Georgia Upheld a Restriction on Abortions After Six Weeks

Restriction on Abortions After Six Weeks: A week after a court ruled that the state’s prohibition on abortions beyond six weeks of pregnancy was unconstitutional, the Georgia Supreme Court has decided to bring it back into effect.

Restriction on the Performing of Abortions After the Six-week Mark

One week after a Fulton County court overturned the restriction, the Georgia Supreme Court reinstated it. In response to a state emergency petition, the high court issued a one-page order Wednesday suspending last week’s lower court ruling pending an appeal.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ruled on Nov. 15 that the 2019 “heartbeat bill” was unconstitutional because Roe v. Wade prohibits abortion bans before viability. After his verdict, Georgia abortion access returned to pre-ban levels, up to 22 weeks. States might outlaw abortion before fetal viability once Roe v. Wade was overturned in June. In Georgia, abortion laws were implemented at six weeks, when fetal cardiac electrical activity can be detected.

Despite not being the final word on the state’s abortion law, Wednesday’s judgment reinstated the six-week ban. Abortion providers asked for 24 hours notice before resuming the restriction.
Abortion rights groups have called Georgia’s law draconian since it bans abortion before people realize they’re pregnant. For an exemption, rape or incest victims must make a police report.

Republican Attorney General Chris Carr’s office applauded the news Wednesday. “We’re satisfied with today’s ruling. Kara Richardson, a representative for Carr’s office, said the appeal prevents additional comment. Plaintiff abortion clinics and reproductive rights groups said the ruling upended Georgians’ access to abortion.

Alice Wang, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, stated, “It’s appalling that this severe rule is back in place just days after being stopped.” This legal ping-pong is causing havoc for medical practitioners and individuals seeking abortion services.

Both sides knew the ban overturn last week was precarious. Georgia’s abortion providers began scheduling abortions up to 22 weeks, while antiabortion leaders such as Georgia Rep. Ed Setzler (R), who created the state’s abortion statute, brushed off last week’s lower court verdict, predicting it would be quickly invalidated by the state Supreme Court.

The future of Georgia’s abortion law is likely to be resolved in court rather than in the statehouse, where political observers and historians say lawmakers are tired after the heated 2019 session, when the six-week restriction passed by a single vote, and eager to tackle other legislative issues.

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Restriction on Abortions After Six Weeks
Add midterm election victories that showed abortion’s popularity. Charles Bullock, a University of Georgia political science professor who specializes in Southern and legislative politics, said abortion prohibitions could backfire with the state’s general population.

He highlighted a University of Georgia study that revealed a majority of respondents rejected or strongly opposed the state’s six-week abortion restriction. Abortion restrictions aren’t popular statewide, he added. While this won’t affect local legislators in safe seats, it could affect statewide candidates.

Abortion has become a key topic in the Georgia Senate race between incumbent Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and Republican opponent Herschel Walker, whose antiabortion public attitude has run into charges by two women that he coerced them to get abortions.

Brian Robinson, a Georgia Republican analyst, predicted new abortion laws will split antiabortion Republicans. Some will want to follow Virginia’s 15-week restriction, while others will want the ‘heartbeat’ criterion or a complete ban, Robinson added.

Even individuals whose opposition to abortion derives from sanctity of life views live in a political milieu. “They don’t want this debate,” he stated. “Right now, they’d rather talk about economic and criminal issues.”

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