Abortion rights advocates sue Georgia over six-week abortion ban

Posted at 7:00 AM, Jun 28, 2019
and last updated 2019-06-28 09:00:34-04

Abortion rights advocates filed a lawsuit Friday challenging that Georgia’s controversial ban on abortion is unconstitutional.

The law is one of the nation’s most restrictive measures, outlawing the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy when a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights sued state officials, calling for a judge to block the law that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed in May from going into effect in January.

The groups are representing abortion care provider SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and several of its member providers.

“H.B. 481 will prevent Georgians from exercising their fundamental constitutional right to decide whether to have an abortion prior to viability and will threaten other critical medical care for pregnant women, causing irreparable harm,” the organizations write.

The move comes as several of the restrictive abortion laws coming out of red state legislatures are being taken to court, with the ACLU and Planned Parenthood challenging Arkansas’ 18-week abortion ban on Thursday. Many conservative lawmakers anticipated the suits, having advanced the measures in hopes of eventually overturning Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

Georgia’s legislation says that “no abortion is authorized or shall be performed if the unborn child has been determined to have a human heartbeat.” It includes some exceptions, including if the pregnancy risks the life or poses substantial and irreversible physical harm to the pregnant woman.

Friday’s lawsuit argues that the Georgia law “criminalizes pre-viability abortions in direct conflict with Roe” and “violates Georgians’ right to privacy and liberty secured by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.”

Nancy Northup, CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights, maintained that her organization is committed to fighting all of this year’s abortion restrictions from going into effect.

“Georgia is one of nine states that have passed abortion bans this year in the hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade,” she said in a statement. “None of these laws are in effect, and we are fighting to keep it that way. For nearly half a century, the Supreme Court has protected the right to abortion, and we know the majority of Americans continue to support abortion access.”

Kemp, who is explicitly named in the lawsuit, anticipated such a challenge — even during the bill’s signing ceremony last month.

“I realize that some may challenge it in a court of law,” Kemp said at the time. “But our job is to do what is right, not what is easy. We are called to be strong and courageous, and we will not back down. We will always continue to fight for life.”