Federal appeals court allows Georgia abortion law to take effect immediately
ATLANTA – A federal appeals court overturned a lower court ruling and allowed the 2019 Georgia restriction Abortion Law to take effect immediately on Wednesday. The decision was expected after the United States Supreme court It ruled last month that there is no constitutional right to an abortion.
The law, which had previously been barred from working, prohibited most abortions once there was a “detectable human heartbeat”. Heart activity can be detected by ultrasound in the cells within the fetus that will eventually become the heart as early as six weeks of pregnancy, before many pregnancies are detected.
Georgia law includes exceptions for rape and incest, as long as a police report is submitted. It also allows for subsequent abortions to be performed when the mother’s life is in danger or if there is a serious medical condition that makes the fetus unable to survive.
A three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit of the US Court of Appeals said a US Supreme Court ruling in the Mississippi case that overturned Roe v. Wade allows the law to take effect. Circuit Court Chief William Pryor wrote that the ruling in this case “makes it clear that there is no right to abortion under the Constitution, so Georgia may prohibit it.”
The Court of Appeal also rejected arguments that a provision of the law changing the definition of “natural person” was unconstitutionally vague. The “personality” provision gives a fetus the same legal rights that people have after birth.
Normally, the ruling will not take effect for weeks. But the court issued a second order on Wednesday allowing the law to take effect immediately.
The National Abortion Federation listed 10 clinics that were offering surgical abortions in Georgia prior to the ruling. At least one clinic in Savannah has already been closed after the Supreme Court ruling.
Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, which filed a lawsuit to challenge the law on behalf of Georgia’s abortion providers and an advocacy group, said the organization “will continue to fight for abortion rights for Georgia women with all the tools at our disposal.”
The ruling promises to intensify partisan fault lines in Georgia’s high-profile midterm elections for governor and the US Senate.
Governor Brian Kemp, a Republican, signed the Living Infants Equity and Equality Act, or Life Act, in 2019. He has avoided saying whether he would prefer more restrictions, though he took an absolutist position at one point that wouldn’t have made rape or incest exceptions kinship.
As he looks to the general election in November against Democrat Stacey Abrams, Kemp emphasized what his staff describe as a broader “life” agenda, noting his support for extending Medicaid to include poor mothers for a full year after childbirth. Kemp’s staff also question the feasibility of passing a more restrictive law, pointing to the current law being passed with only one vote.
“Since taking office in 2019, our family has been committed to serving Georgia in a way that respects and values every human being, and today’s decision from the Eleventh Circuit underscores our promise to protect life at all stages,” Kemp said Wednesday.
“Women are now second-class citizens,” Abrams said, and promised to fight for the law to be repealed if they were elected. With a legislature in place, even acknowledging that it is likely to remain in Republican hands, this could be difficult.
“Today, Kemp has achieved his goal: endangering women, stripping us of our right to choose, and denying our ability to decide what is best for our bodies,” Abrams said. “In a situation where pregnancy is often fatal, he is proud of denying the woman the right to make medical decisions for herself.”
In the Senate contest, Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican contender Herschel Walker highlighted their differences over abortion for weeks.
During his campaign on Wednesday before the Eleventh Circuit ruling, Walker said it was a “problem” that there was no national ban, and he had previously said there was “no exception in my mind” which should allow women to terminate pregnancies resulting from rape, incest or those that threaten the life or health of the woman. However, Walker stopped short of saying he would vote for a ban in the Republican-controlled Congress.
Warnock, who calls himself a “pro-choice pastor,” said on Twitter that the Eleventh Circuit’s decision “allows politicians (in Georgia) to withdraw women’s ability to make their own health care decisions. I will never stop fighting to restore women’s rights to decide Take care of it and get it.”
In the 16-page opinion, Pryor used the term “abortion” to refer to those who defied the law. His predecessor as Chief Justice for the Eleventh Circuit, now Chief Justice Ed Karns, noted in a 2018 opinion on an abortion case in Alabama that some find the term pejorative. He also noted that some consider the terms “doctors” and “doctors” inappropriate for people who have had abortions. As a result, he chose to “take an intermediate course and use the term ‘practitioner’, unless one of the other terms appears in the citation,” he wrote.
The term appeared three times in the majority opinion of Alito who ousted Rowe.