Less than two weeks after the Supreme Court of the United States ruled against a restrictive Louisiana abortion law, a federal judge has now banned Georgia’s.
In the case SisterSong v. Kemp, Judge Steve Jones of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled Monday (July 13) that Georgia’s ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy violated the 14th amendment of the Constitution. Reports The Associated Press (AP):
“The court rejects the state defendants’ argument that the statutory purpose solely concerns “promoting fetal well-being,‘” Jones wrote. “Instead, HB 481’s specific references to Roe v. Wade and ‘established abortion related precedents’ … lends support to plaintiffs’ argument that the purpose of H.B. 481 was to ban or de facto ban abortion.”
Jones refused to leave any parts of the law in effect, which would have also granted personhood to a fetus, giving it the same legal rights as people have after they’re born. For example, a mother could have claimed a fetus as a dependent to reduce taxes.
In March 2019, Georgia joined a number of other Republican-controlled states to pass what reproductive rights advocates call a “heartbeat ban,” a law which would prohibit abortion after six weeks of pregnancy (when many do not yet know they are pregnant). The “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act” (H.B. 481) made exceptions for abortions in cases that involve rape or incest, provided the person filed a police report first.
In response to the bill, on June 28, 2019, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood filed SisterSong v. Kemp, a federal lawsuit opposing the ban.
Georgia, which has a population that is 40 percent people of color, already faces numerous challenges regarding women’s health care. It has a shortage of obstetricians and one of the highest maternal death rates in the country, reports The New York Times.
Currently, pregnant people in Georgia can legally have the medical procedure the first 20 weeks of pregnancy. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who supported the six-week ban, has vowed to appeal the decision.
“Lead plaintiff SisterSong, an Atlanta-based group that fights abortion restrictions on behalf of African American and other women of color, called it a ‘huge win for bodily autonomy,’” reports The AP.
“No one should have to live in a world where their bodies and reproductive decision making is controlled by the state,” SisterSong Executive Director Monica Simpson said in a statement.