A federal court on Monday said a Georgia state law that prohibits abortion anytime after the detection of a fetal heartbeat is unconstitutional.
The ruling came in a lawsuit against the 2019 law filed by state abortion providers and abortion advocacy group.
In his decision, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones wrote that “The Supreme Court has repeatedly and unequivocally held that under no circumstances whatsoever may a state prohibit or ban abortions at any point prior to viability.”
Of the Georgia law, “The Court is left with no other choice but to declare it unconstitutional,” Jones wrote.
The ruling is not surprising. Pro life advocates have expected that the Georgia law was passed in part with the intention of challenging the constitutionality of Supreme Court judgments that find or support a constitutional right to abortion, especially 1973’s Roe vs. Wade and 1992’s Planned Parenthood vs. Casey.
Georgia’s governor Brian Kemp said Monday the state would appeal the court’s ruling, which could lead to a Supreme Court hearing of the case.
“Georgia values life and we will keep fighting for the rights of the unborn,” Kemp said in a July 13 statement.
In May 2019, Kemp said upon signing the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act that it is “a declaration that all life has value, that all life matters, that all life is worthy of protection.”
The law was blocked by a judge through a temporary order before it took effect. Abortion is currently legal in Georgia until the 20th week of a pregnancy.
The Catholic bishops of Georgia supported the legislation and thanked the governor for signing it into law.
Actress Alyssa Milano had called for a widespread entertainment industry boycott of the state of Georgia in response to the law’s passage. However, the boycott failed to materialize.
The court’s decision also touched upon a provision of the Georgia law that declared unborn babies at all stages of development the protections extended to “persons” in state law. Jones called the provision “unconstitutionally vague,”
“The State Defendants have been unable to articulate what this will mean for Plaintiffs and Georgians more generally,” Jones wrote.
Also in federal court on Monday, a DC judge suspended a requirement that women to must visit a physician in order to obtain abortion-causing drugs. The judge said that during the pandemic, the requirement causes a “substantial obstacle” to women seeking abortions and must therefore be overturned.
"Particularly in light of the limited timeframe during which a medication abortion or any abortion must occur, such infringement on the right to an abortion would constitute irreparable harm," U.S. District Judge Theodore Chuang wrote in his July 13 decision.
The decision does not allow mifepristone, an abortifacient, to be purchased over the counter. Rather, it allows medical providers to have the drug mailed or delivered to patients for as long as the federally declared public health emergency lasts, according to the Associated Press. FDA rules ordinarily require a patient to pick up a tablet of mifepristone at a medical office, and to be given information about risks associated with the medication.
Chuang’s decision came in a lawsuit filed in May by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and other groups, the Associated Press reported. The judge’s argument noted that other medications which must typically be taken in a doctor’s office can be taken at home during the pandemic.