ATLANTA – The Georgia Supreme Court reinstated Georgia’s law banning most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy Wednesday just over a week after a lower court judge had blocked the law from taking effect.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney had ruled last week that the Georgia abortion ban was unconstitutional and blocked state officials from enforcing it.
The so-called “heartbeat” law, initially passed in 2019, prohibits abortions in Georgia after a fetal heartbeat is detected. It has faced legal challenges since its inception, first in federal courts and now in Georgia state courts.
After the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in June overturning the 1973 landmark abortion-rights case Roe v. Wade, a federal appeals court allowed the Georgia law to take effect in July.
Pro-choice groups then took their fight to state court, where McBurney enjoined the law. Soon after, lawyers for the state filed notice of their intent to appeal to the state Supreme Court. They also filed an emergency petition asking the court to reinstitute the abortion law while the case is pending.
The court agreed to do so Wednesday in a one-page ruling representing a unanimous 7-0 decision. Two justices – Nels S.D. Peterson and Andrew Pinson – did not participate in the case.
“We are pleased with the court’s action today,” said Kara Richardson, spokesperson for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. “However, we are unable to provide further comment due to the pending appeal.”
The plaintiffs in the case – led by reproductive rights group SisterSong — argued that reinstituting the ban while the legal battle continues could harm women.
They also asked the Supreme Court to provide one day’s advance notice of the re-institution of the law so that providers and patients are not taken by surprise ahead of scheduled procedures. However, the court declined to provide the advance notice.
“It is cruel that our patients’ ability to access the reproductive health care they need has been taken away yet again,” said Kwajelyn Jackson, executive director of Feminist Women’s Health Center, one of the plaintiffs in the case.
“For the second time this year, we are being forced to turn away those in need of abortion care beyond six weeks of pregnancy. This ban has wreaked havoc on Georgians’ lives, and our patients deserve better. We will keep fighting to protect our patients and their health.”
This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.