A Georgia judge overturned a state law Tuesday that bans abortions of unborn children with a heartbeat at six weeks gestational age.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney sided with Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, declaring specific provisions unconstitutional in the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act,” which would criminalize abortions occurring after an unborn child has a detectable heartbeat typically as early as week 5 of pregnancy.
The law, which Gov. Brian Kemp signed in 2019, was previously blocked by a district court ruling until last summer when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which Justice Samuel Alito called “egregiously wrong from the start.”
McBurney said in his 15-page ruling that when lawmakers signed the bill, “everywhere in America, including Georgia, it was unequivocally unconstitutional for governments — federal, state, or local — to ban abortions before viability,” adding the state’s law “did not become the law of Georgia when it was enacted, and it is not the law of Georgia now.”
“What does this ruling mean?” McBurney wrote. “Most fundamentally, it means that courts — not legislatures — define the law,” adding that “if the courts have spoken, clearly and directly, as to what the law is, as to what is and is not constitutional, legislatures and legislators are not at liberty to pass laws contrary to such pronouncements.”
Life News reports state attorneys argued the judge should view the abortion ban in light of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling since Roe v. Wade no longer applies.
Andrew Isenhour, a spokesperson for Gov. Kemp, told The Associated Press in a statement that the judge’s ruling placed “the personal beliefs of a judge over the will of the legislature and people of Georgia.”
“The state has already filed a notice of appeal, and we will continue to fight for the lives of Georgia’s unborn children,” Isenhour said.
Kara Richardson, a Georgia attorney general spokeswoman, told Axios that the state officials would “pursue an immediate appeal and will continue to fulfill our duty to defend the laws of our state in court.”
Noah Brandt, vice president of communications for pro-life non-profit organization Live Action, denounced the judge’s ruling saying the Georgia LIFE Act is constitutional.
“The Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade through their decision in Dobbs, and therefore, state lawmakers have the constitutional prerogative to completely abolish the horrific scandal of abortion,” Brandt said. “This judge is clearly wrong, and I suspect the ruling will be swiftly corrected by a higher court.”
Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, the lead plaintiff in the case, celebrated ending the “extreme abortion ban” victory on Twitter.
“We will continue to work towards a Georgia in which everyone—including Black women and Queer, trans, and low-income people—has the freedom to decide to have children, to not have children, and to raise the families they have in thriving communities,” Simpson said. “We will have to keep fighting in Georgia to hold our legislators accountable, but this ruling proves we have the power to keep winning.”