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Georgia Judge Overturns Six-Week Abortion Ban

Abortion rights protest outside the Georgia state capital building

"It did not become the law of Georgia when it was enacted and it is not the law of Georgia now.”

A judge in Georgia has officially ruled that the state’s abortion ban is unconstitutional, and cannot be enforced.

The ban was enacted in July, despite being signed into law in 2019. It was one of many “trigger laws” intended to take effect after the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, which revoked legal access to the procedure.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney issued his verdict on Tuesday following a lawsuit filed by doctors and advocacy groups alike that claimed the “heartbeat bill” violated a pregnant person’s right to liberty and privacy.

In his decision, Fulton agreed with their arguments, saying parts of the law “were plainly unconstitutional when drafted, voted upon, and enacted”, and that “everywhere in America, including Georgia, it was unequivocally unconstitutional for governments — federal, state, or local — to ban abortions before viability.”

Georgia’s bill was one of the strictest bans in the country, prohibiting abortion after just six weeks. Many women are unaware they are even pregnant at six weeks, but such laws have been justified based on when “heartbeats” are detectable in embryos.

Both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists say that referring to neurological activity in embryos as “heartbeats” is misleading, as the cells have not yet formed a heart at only six weeks.

The Republican district attorney has already pledged to file an appeal, with spokesperson for the office Kara Richardson telling Axios that they will “pursue an immediate appeal and will continue to fulfill our duty to defend the laws of our state in court.”

With the state’s Republican governor winning reelection, McBurney’s ruling will undoubtedly be challenged, but he maintained in his ruling that the ban “did not become the law of Georgia when it was enacted and it is not the law of Georgia now.”

Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, was the lead plaintiff in the case. While she was excited to see the ban overturned, she emphasized that the fight is not yet over.

"After a long road, we are finally able to celebrate the end of an extreme abortion ban in our state," Simpson said. "While we applaud the end of a ban steeped in white supremacy, it should not have existed in the first place. Now, it’s time to move forward with a vision for Georgia that establishes full bodily autonomy and liberation for our communities.”

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