In his Nov. 15 decision, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ruled that the so-called “Heartbeat Law” was unconstitutional when enacted in 2019 because the common law of Roe v. Wade Prohibited abortion prohibits early viability. After his ruling, access to abortion in Georgia returned to the level before the ban up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
after the Roe v. Wade Repealed in June, states were free to enact laws that banned preterm abortion. States like Georgia have enacted a ban on abortions after six weeks, which is the earliest that fetal cardiac electrical activity can be detected – as distinct from the heartbeat of a full organ.
Although Wednesday’s order is not the final word on the state’s abortion law, the issuance of the order reinstated the six-week ban effective immediately. The court rejected a request by abortion providers to give 24 hours notice before reinstating the ban.
Georgia Governor Signs ‘Heartbeat Act’, Giving State One of the Most Restrictive Abortion Laws in the Nation
Abortion rights groups have criticized the Georgia law as extreme, noting that it bans abortions before people often know they are pregnant. Victims seeking an abortion due to rape or incest are required to file a police report on the assault in order to receive the exemption.
A spokesman for Attorney General Chris Carr (R) said Wednesday that the office welcomes the news.
“We are pleased with the court’s action today. However, we cannot provide further comment due to the pending appeal,” Kara Richardson, a spokeswoman for Carr’s office, said in an email.
Abortion clinics and reproductive rights groups among the plaintiffs criticized the decision, saying it once again improved the lives of Georgians seeking abortion access.
“It is outrageous that this extreme law is coming back into effect just days after it was rightfully blocked,” Alice Wang, an attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “This legal ping pong is causing chaos for medical providers trying to do their jobs and patients who are now left frantically searching for the abortion services they need.”
When the lower court overturned the ban last week, both sides were fully aware that the decision was tentative. Abortion providers in Georgia cautiously renewed the timing of abortions up to 22 weeks, while anti-abortion lawmakers like Georgia Rep. Ed Settler (R), who authored the state’s abortion law, shrugged off last week’s lower court ruling, while which they accurately predict will be quickly overturned by the state’s Supreme Court.
The future of Georgia’s abortion law will likely be settled in court rather than in the Georgia state House, where political analysts and historians say lawmakers are tired of the bitter 2019 session — where the six-week ban passed by a single vote — and are ready to deal with other legislative priorities.
Add to that the string of recent midterm election victories that demonstrated the broad popularity of access to abortion.
Charles Bullock, a political science professor at the University of Georgia who specializes in Southern and legislative politics, said abortion bans in the increasingly virtuous state could fire up deep-red base voters but could hurt the state’s general population.
He cited a recent poll from the School of Public and International Affairs Survey Research at the University of Georgia that found a majority of respondents opposed or strongly opposed the state’s six-week abortion ban.
“Across the country, this is not a winning issue,” he said of the abortion restrictions. While it’s unlikely to sway local lawmakers in safe districts, strong opposition to abortion rights “could come back to bite [lawmakers] If they try to run for office across the country.”
Abortion has emerged as a central issue in the Georgia Senate race between incumbent Sen. Raphael G. Warnock (D) and Republican challenger Herschel Walker, whose strong public stance against abortion has been met with accusations from two women that while in a relationship with Walker, he pressured them have abortions.
Georgia Republican analyst Brian Robinson said a split would emerge among anti-abortion Republicans if more abortion laws were forced back into the chambers.
“You will have some who want us to go in the direction of Virginia, which is contested [a ban at 15-weeks]And some who would like to adhere to the ‘pulse’ standard – and some who would prefer a total ban,” said Robinson.
But even for those whose opposition to abortion stems from what Robinson said are genuine beliefs about the sanctity of life, they live in a political context.
“It’s not a debate they’re eager to have,” he said. “Right now, what they prefer to talk about and message about is solutions to our economy and crime.”