Judge asked to decide on the permanent fate of Georgia’s abortion law
ATLANTA – After a federal judge temporarily blocked Georgia’s restrictive abortion law, lawyers for the state and opponents of the measure are arguing in court over whether the law should be permanently barred from entering into law. force.
The law prohibits abortions once a “detectable human heart rate” is present, with a few exceptions. Heart activity can be detected by ultrasound as early as six weeks pregnant, before many women realize they are waiting, according to a court challenge.
The law, sign by Georgia Governor Brian Kemp in May, was due to become enforceable on January 1. But a lawsuit challenging it was filed in June on behalf of abortion providers in Georgia and an advocacy group, and U.S. District Judge Steve Jones in October temporarily. blocked the law.
Lawyers for the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, who filed a lawsuit, and state attorneys filed summary judgment motions Thursday. This means that each party asks the judge to rule in their favor based on the facts of the case without going to trial.
The law defines a “detectable human heart rate” as “embryonic or fetal heart activity or the regular and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the heart in the gestational sac”. Referring to a paper from the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the lawsuit says that “cells that end up forming the basis of heart development later in pregnancy” produce “cardiac activity” that can be detected by ultrasound. as early as six weeks after the onset of pregnancy. pregnancy.
The law provides exceptions for rape and incest, provided the woman first files a police report. It also allows abortions after detection of cardiac activity when a woman’s life is in danger or when a fetus is deemed nonviable due to a serious health problem.
Further, he declares an embryo or fetus a “natural person” once heart activity can be detected, saying that is when “the full value of a child begins”. This would make the fetus a dependent minor for tax purposes and lead to child support obligations.
The US Supreme Court precedent ruled for nearly five decades that states cannot ban abortion until a fetus is viable, and since Georgian law makes it unconstitutional, opponents to the law argue.
They also argue that the new definition of personality is unconstitutionally vague because it applies throughout state law and “makes many criminal and civil provisions of the Code unclear.” Notably, they write, it’s unclear if and when healthcare providers could face criminal charges if the treatment harms the fetus.
State attorneys argue that the doctors and the advocacy group who filed the lawsuit lack the legal capacity to challenge the law, in part because they are not individual women who face “a burden on their right to abortion ”.
State attorneys also argue that the definitions associated with the personality of the law section are “clear and unambiguous” and that “the notion that the law could somehow be interpreted as criminalizing standard medical care provided in good faith is without merit ”.
Lawyers for the state also argue that even if the judge finds parts of the law unconstitutional, other articles should be allowed to come into force.
In his October order temporarily blocking the law, Jones wrote that based on the Supreme Court’s current precedent regarding attempts to ban abortions before they are viable, the challenge to Georgian law is likely to succeed.
He also expressed concern about the part of the law that redefines a “natural person” to include “any human being, including an unborn child”, which is defined as an embryo or fetus “at any stage of development. which is carried in the womb. “In its landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which legalized abortion nationwide, the United States Supreme Court considered and rejected this precise definition,” Jones wrote.
Georgia’s old abortion laws remain in force while last year’s measure is blocked. They prohibit abortions at 20 weeks or more “from fertilization” unless the fetus has a defect so severe that it is unlikely to live or if a doctor reasonably believes an abortion is necessary to protect the fetus. the life or health of the mother.
Georgia’s so-called heartbeat law is part of a wave of laws recently passed by Republican-controlled legislatures in an attack on the Roe v. Wade.