A federal District Court struck down Georgia’s six-week abortion ban on Monday, saying the law is unconstitutional.
When Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed the controversial legislation into law in May 2019, the measure became one of the most extreme abortion bans in the nation. It banned abortion as soon as a doctor could detect a fetal heartbeat, which usually happens at about six weeks into a pregnancy ― before many women are aware of their condition.
The law was temporarily blocked from going into effect in October after a coalition of abortion rights advocates challenged it in court. Monday’s ruling means that the state is permanently blocked from enforcing the law. The decision came just hours after a similar abortion ban in Tennessee was blocked by a federal court.
“The district court blocked Georgia’s abortion ban, because it violates over 50 years of Supreme Court precedent and fails to trust women to make their own personal decisions,” Sean J. Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement. “This case has always been about one thing: letting her decide.”
In a tweet, Kemp said the state would appeal the court’s decision. “Georgia values life, and we will keep fighting for the rights of the unborn,” he said.
Georgia’s ban is part of a nationally coordinated strategy to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling that established federal protection for abortion, said Emily Nestler, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights.
“This case has always been about one thing: letting her decide.”
“These states are hellbent on denying the women in their state bodily autonomy,” she said. “Meanwhile, Georgia has the worst maternal mortality rate in the country. Black women in Georgia face the highest risk — they are 3.3 times more likely to die from pregnancy-related complications than white women. But instead of acting to help pregnant women, lawmakers are trying to ban abortion.”
The case will likely go to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit, based in Atlanta, to be reviewed.
Oriaku Njoku, co-founder and co-director of ARC-Southeast, an abortion fund based in Atlanta, called Monday’s decision a victory.
“But freedom from abortion bans is only part of what we need for reproductive justice and for everyone to be able to parent, not parent, live and thrive in safe, healthy communities,” Njoku said. “It’s going to take every one of us showing up with our allies rising up as co-conspirators. We must break the cycles of anti-Blackness and state neglect and reproductive coercion that have been punishing our people and denying us our dreams for too long.”