Georgia to appeal as judge overturns state’s ‘heartbeat bill’ in effect since July

pregnancy, abortion, planned parenthood

A judge has overturned the Georgia LIFE Act, which protects preborn children from abortion after a heartbeat can be detected, usually at six weeks gestation.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ruled that two parts of the law were “plainly unconstitutional when drafted, voted upon, and enacted,” and claimed it cannot be enforced. The Act had been in effect since July, with McBurney previously ruling in August that it could stand during court battles seeking to overturn it. Multiple groups had sued to have the law overturned, including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.

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Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, celebrated the ruling, tweeting, “Georgia’s abortion ban ruled UNENFORCEABLE. The enormity of this victory is worth celebrating. Please know, we will continue to fight so that every person in Georgia can receive the care they deserve without fear of prosecution or harm.”

Yet McGill Johnson didn’t acknowledge that the abortions she fights to keep legal take the lives of human beings. Under the Georgia LIFE Act, abortions cannot be committed once a preborn child’s heartbeat can be detected. The heart begins beating between 16 and 22 days after fertilization, and it can be detected via ultrasound around six weeks.

The lawsuit claimed the law violates the Georgia Constitution’s right to privacy and liberty, by supposedly forcing pregnancy and childbirth upon women. The plaintiffs also claimed that it was invalid because it violated the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent when it was enacted, as Roe v. Wade had not yet been overturned at the time.

McBurney agreed with both arguments. He agreed that when the law was passed, “everywhere in America, including Georgia, it was unequivocally unconstitutional for governments — federal, state, or local — to ban abortions before viability.”

However, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals saw things differently in July when they removed an injunction against the LIFE Act based on the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision which overturned Roe v. Wade. According to Atlanta News First, “In the ruling, the 11th circuit cited the Supreme Court’s decision and its ruling that ‘the Constitution makes no reference to abortion, and no such right is implicitly protected by any constitutional provision.'”

Noah Brandt, Live Action’s Vice President of Communications, said in response, “The Georgia LIFE Act is constitutional. The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade through their decision in Dobbs, and therefore, state lawmakers have the constitutional prerogative to completely abolish the horrific scandal of abortion. This judge is clearly wrong, and I suspect the ruling will be swiftly corrected by a higher court.”

Kara Richardson, a spokeswoman for Georgia’s attorney general, said that Georgia plans to “pursue an immediate appeal and will continue to fulfill our duty to defend the laws of our state in court.”

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