The Georgia Supreme Court has reinstated the state’s LIFE Act, which protects preborn children from abortion when a heartbeat can be detected, usually at six weeks.
Earlier this month, Fulton County Superior Judge Robert McBurney issued a stay on the law, claiming two parts of the law were “plainly unconstitutional when drafted, voted upon, and enacted,” and, therefore, could not be enforced. Pro-abortion organizations 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 sued to block the law, and previously McBurney had declared it could stand during the court battle to overturn it.
The lawsuit alleged that the LIFE Act violated the Georgia Constitution’s right to privacy and liberty because it “forces” pregnancy and childbirth on women. The plaintiffs also claimed it violated U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent when it was enacted, as Roe v. Wade had not yet been overturned when the Georgia law was instituted. McBurney agreed with this argument, writing 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.”
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr appealed McBurney’s ruling and asked the state Supreme Court to step in. The Georgia Supreme Court quickly ruled in the state’s favor, overturning McBurney’s ruling with a one-page order and reinstating the pro-life law. However, the order is temporary while the state’s appeal against McBurney’s ruling is fully reviewed. Seven of the nine justices agreed with the order of reinstatement.
Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, complained about the ruling in a statement that there should have been a 24-hour notice and that the law is rooted in racism. “While disappointing and deeply frustrating, we were not surprised when the Kemp administration filed a petition for an emergency stay following last week’s ruling,” she said. “The governor and attorney general of Georgia are doubling down to control access to reproductive health care, and while the stay was granted, we will not stop fighting until this ban that is steeped in white supremacy is gone.”
Under the Georgia LIFE Act, an abortion 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 at around six weeks.