The Phoenix Flyer

Georgia Supreme Court restores state’s strict six-week abortion ban, for now

By: - November 23, 2022 2:23 pm

An anti-abortion law that sparked massive protests when it was implemented this summer is back in place after it was blocked by a Fulton County judge last week. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Most abortions are now once again illegal in Georgia because of a state Supreme Court decision.

Last week, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert C. I. McBurney blocked the state’s controversial law, which bans abortions once cardiac activity is detected in the fetus, typically six weeks into a pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant.

McBurney ruled that provisions of the law were unconstitutional because they were passed in 2019, while Roe vs. Wade was still the law of the land. The law went into effect this summer after the Supreme Court overturned the longtime precedent. Georgia law states that laws that are illegal when passed are void, McBurney ruled, citing a doctrine called void ab initio, or invalid from the beginning.

Lawyers for the state argued a different interpretation of void ab initio, saying it means that a law that is unconstitutional now was also unconstitutional when it was written.

In a one-page ruling, the high court Wednesday put the decision on hold pending a final decision.

It’s not yet clear when that ruling will come, but abortion rights activists are vowing to fight on.

“Reinstating this extreme abortion ban will cause immense harm, especially to Black Georgians and people with the fewest resources — who are least likely to be able to travel out of state for care and most likely to suffer severe medical consequences from forced pregnancy and childbirth,” said Julia Kaye, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project.

“While this ruling is devastating, the case is not over. We will never stop fighting to ensure that everyone, no matter their geography, race, or income, has the power to control their own bodies and futures.”

Abortion clinics had resumed offering services to those more than six weeks pregnant and reported high demand, including people calling from other states to make appointments.

“Over the past week, we have seen an [outpouring] of need for abortion care across the southeast,” Atlanta’s Feminist Women’s Health Center wrote in a statement. “Today, we’ll have to turn many patients away once again. This ban is cruel and will especially harm Black communities and other communities of color that face significant barriers to care, such as systemic racism, state criminalization, and financial hardship.”

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Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal. Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University. The Florida Phoenix is a sister media outlet to the Georgia Recorder. Both outlets are part of the nonprofit States Newsroom.