By KATE SCANLON, OSV News | Published October 25, 2023
(OSV News)–The Georgia Supreme Court Oct. 24 rejected a lower court’s ruling, allowing a Georgia law restricting abortion after six weeks gestation to remain in effect amid ongoing legal challenges.
The law, a so-called “heartbeat” ban, called the LIFE Act prohibits with some exceptions abortion after fetal cardiac activity can be detected. Critics of such laws argue many women do not yet know they are pregnant at six weeks.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney called the law “unequivocally unconstitutional” last year because it was enacted in 2019, while Roe v. Wade was still in place.
But the Georgia Supreme Court rejected McBurney’s ruling in a 6-1 decision.
“When the United States Supreme Court overrules its own precedent interpreting the United States Constitution, we are then obligated to apply the Court’s new interpretation of the Constitution’s meaning on matters of federal constitutional law,” Justice Verda Colvin wrote in a majority opinion.
In a statement, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the Georgia Supreme Court “upheld a devastating abortion ban that has stripped away the reproductive freedom of millions of women in Georgia and threatened physicians with jail time for providing care.”
“Since the overturning of Roe v. Wade, we’ve seen the dangerous impact bans like this have had on women across the country,” Jean-Pierre said, arguing, “Women have been denied the medical care they desperately need to preserve their health, including being turned away from emergency rooms, forced to travel hundreds of miles for care, and faced complications that make it more difficult to have children in the future.”
While Republican elected officials “are doubling down and calling for a national abortion ban that would criminalize reproductive health care in every state,” she said, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris “won’t stop fighting until the protections of Roe v. Wade are restored in federal law.”
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said in a statement that “we are pleased with the court’s decision and will continue to defend the constitutionality of Georgia’s LIFE Act.” “LIFE” stands for “Living Infants Fairness and Equality.”
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America, said, “Today’s Georgia Supreme Court decision ensures that tens of thousands of children with beating hearts will continue to be protected from brutal abortions.”
Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, indicated opponents of the law will continue their challenge.
“Today’s ruling is not the end of this fight for women’s healthcare,” Young said in a statement. “Be clear, the right to abortion is on the ballot in 2024. Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia legislature acted to take away our rights. The Georgia legislature can restore our rights and we must organize to elect a pro-choice legislature.”
But in her statement, Dannenfelser called the ruling “the latest vindication of the will of Georgians, who have compassion for both babies and mothers, along with lawmakers like Governor Kemp and many others who heard them and acted.”
“Twenty-five states–half the country–have pro-life protections in their law in the new Dobbs era. The majority of these states protect unborn children at least when their heartbeat can be detected, a point when science shows they have more than a 90% chance of surviving to birth,” she said. “We congratulate Governor Kemp, Attorney General Carr, all our local allies, and the people of Georgia on a long and well-fought battle. Life is winning in hearts and minds nationwide. When you lead and stand boldly for life, Americans will stand with you.”
Kate Scanlon is a national reporter for OSV News covering Washington. Follow her on X (formerly known as Twitter) @kgscanlon.