Georgia Supreme Court reinstates abortion ban after 6 weeks : NPR


A small group, including Stephanie Batchelor, left, sits on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol protesting the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 26, 2022. The Georgia Supreme Court on Wednesday, Nov. 23, reinstated the state’s abortion ban after approx. six weeks of pregnancy.

Ben Gray/AP


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Ben Gray/AP


A small group, including Stephanie Batchelor, left, sits on the steps of the Georgia State Capitol protesting the overturning of Roe v. Wade on June 26, 2022. The Georgia Supreme Court on Wednesday, Nov. 23, reinstated the state’s abortion ban after approx. six weeks of pregnancy.

Ben Gray/AP

ATLANTA — The Georgia Supreme Court on Wednesday reinstated the state’s ban on abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy, abruptly ending access to late-term abortions that had been reopened days earlier.

In a one-page order, the justices stayed a lower court ruling overturning the ban while they consider the appeal. Abortion providers who had resumed performing the procedure for the past six weeks had to stop again.

Lawyers and advocates who pushed to overturn the ban said the sudden halt would traumatize women who now have to arrange travel to other states for abortions or keep their pregnancies.

“It’s outrageous that this extreme law is back in place just days after it was properly blocked,” said Alice Wang, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, which represents abortion providers challenging the Georgia ban. “This legal ping-pong is wreaking havoc on medical professionals trying to do their jobs and on patients who are now left scrambling to find the abortion services they need.”

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The state’s attorney general said in a court filing that “countless numbers of unborn children” will “suffer the permanent consequences” if the state Supreme Court does not impose a stay and put on hold Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney’s Nov. 15 ruling.

McBurney ruled that the state’s abortion ban was invalid because, when it was signed into law in 2019, U.S. Supreme Court precedent set by Roe v. Wade and other rulings allowed abortion well beyond six weeks.

The decision immediately barred the implementation of the abortion ban across the country. The state appealed and asked the Georgia Supreme Court to stay the decision pending the appeal.

Although abortions for the past six weeks have been resumed, some abortion providers said they were treading cautiously out of concern that the ban could be quickly reinstated.

Georgia’s ban went into effect in July after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. It bans most abortions once a “detectable human heartbeat” is present.

Heart activity can be detected by ultrasound in cells in the embryo, which will eventually become the heart around six weeks into the pregnancy. This means that most abortions in Georgia were effectively banned at a point before many people knew they were pregnant.

The measure was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019. In his ruling, McBurney said the timing — before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — made the law immediately invalid.

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Legislatures exceed their authority when they pass laws that violate a constitutional right declared by the judiciary, he wrote.

For the law to take effect, the state legislature would have to pass it again, he wrote.

The state attorney general’s office, in a filing with the Georgia Supreme Court, criticized McBurney’s reasoning as having “no basis in law, precedent or common sense.”

Plaintiffs’ lawyers defended it in response and warned of “irreparable harm” to women if it was delayed. They also asked the Supreme Court for 24 hours’ notice before issuing any stay to “avoid the potential chaos” of resuming the ban while women are waiting for or in the middle of having an abortion.

The state Supreme Court did not hold a hearing before issuing its order, and attorneys for the plaintiffs said it denied their request for 24 hours’ notice.

The Supreme Court’s order said seven of the nine judges concurred in the decision. He said one was disqualified and another did not participate.

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