Georgia Supreme Court reviews appeal of LIFE Act protecting preborn humans

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Georgia’s battle to protect preborn children rages on as the state’s Supreme Court examines an appeal of its landmark Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act. The court heard oral arguments on Tuesday, marking the beginning of the state’s deliberation to determine the future of the LIFE Act and the fate of countless preborn children.

Under the LIFE Act, abortions in the state are prohibited after a preborn child’s heartbeat is detected; the heart begins beating 16-22 days after fertilization, and can be detected via ultrasound around six weeks gestation. 

The law, which was signed back in 2019, did not go into effect until Roe v. Wade was overturned in 2022. In July, several pro-abortion groups, including Planned Parenthood, the Center for Reproductive Rights, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and the American Civil Liberties Union subsequently filed a lawsuit challenging the abortion ban, claiming it violated the constitutional right to privacy by “forcing” pregnancy and childbirth on women.

In the fall, Fulton County Judge Robert C.I. McBurney issued a stay on the law, claiming it was unconstitutional because the law was enacted in 2019 before Roe v. Wade had been overturned. However, Attorney General Chris Carr appealed the ruling and asked the state Supreme Court to intervene. The court issued a one-page order in favor of the law, overturning McBurney’s ruling and reinstating the pro-life measure. 

Though the order was only temporary, it marked a significant pro-life victory and signaled a strong show of support for protecting the preborn in Georgia, with seven of the nine justices on the Georgia Supreme Court agreeing with the order.

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During oral arguments on Tuesday, Julia Stone, the attorney for the pro-abortion groups, aligned with McBurney’s ruling, stating that a law can never be valid if it is unconstitutional at the time that it is passed. “This is not a case where there was gray area in this in 2019. This was a case where there were 50 years of Supreme Court precedent,” she said.

In turn, state solicitor-general Stephen Petrany noted that the plaintiff’s whole case rested on the notion that the LIFE Act was not valid in 2019 and “the notion that Dobbs somehow does not undo that would be incoherent.”

He added, “Nowhere is there even a whisper of the notion that because (laws) simply violated judicial opinions that were later overruled, they were somehow themselves void. There is no authority for this theory anywhere.”

Justice Sarah Hawkins Warren also disagreed with Stone and the plaintiff’s argument, saying, “They’re not dealing with judicial precedent, and when you have judicial precedent that is applied retroactively, I do not think you can artificially separate them as you have tried to do here.”

The Georgia Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling in the case by or before July.

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