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Federal court upholds Georgia “heartbeat” abortion law

(e U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld Georgia’s “heartbeat” abortion law Wednesday, finding the ban on abortions after detection of a fetal heartbeat at around six weeks is legal.

The victory for Gov. Brian Kemp and other prolife Georgians was made possible by last month’s U.S. Supreme Court deci sion that overruled Roe v. Wade and found that there is no constitutional right to abortion.

Georgia’s General Assembly passed legislation in 2019 banning most abortions in Georgia after a fetal heartbeat could be detected – usually around six weeks of pregnancy.

Now that the appellate court has upheld the law, it takes effect immediately, according to the Ameri- can Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), one of the groups that challenged the law.

(e ACLU called the court's move to reinstate the law immediately 'highly unorthodox,' saying normally the court would wait 28 days to issue a mandate.

'The court took this action on its own, without any request from the state, and outside of the normal court procedures,' the group stated. 'This means the state’s six-week ban takes effect today, pushing abortion out of reach for Georgians before many even know they’re pregnant.”

( e ACLU, Sister Song, Planned Parenthood, and other reproductive care providers initially successfully sued to block the law from taking effect in U.S. District Court in 2020. The state then appealed that decision to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Late last week, both sides in the Georgia case filed new briefs laying out their arguments in light of the Supreme Court ruling. Wednesday’s decision confirms that the Georgia law will stand and reiterates the Supreme Court’s position that there is no constitutional right to an abortion.

Abortion rights advocates criticized the ruling.

'Across the state, providers are now being forced to turn away patients who thought they would be able to access abortion, immediately changing the course of their lives and futures. (is is horriffic," the ACLU – joined by other plaintiffs in the case – said in a statement Wednesday. “We’ll continue doing everything in our power to fight for abortion access in Georgia in the face of these harmful attacks on people’s ability to control if and when to have a child.' Kemp praised the decision for finally allowing Georgia’s heartbeat law to take effect. “As mothers navigate pregnancy, birth, parenthood, or alternative options to parenthood – like adoption – Georgia’s public, private, and nonprofit sectors stand ready to provide the resources they need to be safe, healthy, and informed,” the governor said.

“It is the constitutional duty of the Georgia Attorney General to defend the laws of our state,” Attorney General Chris Carr added. “Today, our arguments have prevailed, meaning the Eleventh Circuit has allowed Georgia’s LIFE Act to take effect immediately.'

State Sen. Jen Jordan, the Democrat challenging Carr on the November ballot, said the battle over abortion rights isn’t over.

'(e U.S. Supreme Court said this fight belongs in the states, so we must challenge this law in the state courts, and we must elect state leaders who will protect access to reproductive health care,” she said. “That’s why I’m running for Georgia Attorney General.”

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

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