ATLANTA – Both sides in the legal battle over Georgia’s 2019 law banning most abortions after about six weeks into a pregnancy made their cases during a trial in state court this week.
While the General Assembly enacted the abortion law three years ago, federal court rulings prevented it from taking effect until this summer after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion.
Pro-choice advocates then challenged the law in state court, arguing it is unconstitutional under the Georgia Constitution’s right to privacy.
During the trial in Fulton County Superior Court this week, lawyers for the plaintiffs presented expert witnesses including doctors, a public health expert and an ultrasound technician. The experts argued that the law has detrimental effects on Georgians’ health.
“Georgia’s ban has disproportionately harmed communities that already face barriers to health care: Black, Indigenous, and people of color; people with low incomes; and those who live in rural communities,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said Tuesday after the court hearing concluded. “We have asked the court to end this state-inflicted trauma so that providers in Georgia can care for the patients who need them.”
Lawyers for the state questioned the methods and conclusions of the plaintiffs’ witnesses and presented their own expert testimony in support of House Bill 481.
“Human life begins when the sperm fertilizes the egg, the moment of conception when that new human being becomes a genetically distinct person,” said Dr. Jeffrey Wright, a specialist in maternal-fetal medicine who practices in North Carolina who has served as an expert witness in abortion cases in other states.
Wright said Georgia’s law provides sufficient exceptions to allow physicians to decide to perform abortions if the life of the mother is at risk.
“[Doctors] can still provide that same medical care,” he said.
Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said Monday he would not rule on the matter until after Georgia’s Nov. 8 midterm elections, in part due to the extensive evidence presented to him.
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.