Georgia Anti-Abortion Law Declared Unconstitutional: Local Reactions

By Larry Felton Johnson | Cobb County Courier | July 14, 2020 

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Judge Steve Jones, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia declared Georgia’s controversial law outlawing abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected unconstitutional in a ruling Monday.

The law was one of a number of state laws, known as “Heartbeat Bills,” which have been passed by Republican-led legislatures and supported by anti-abortion groups.

Reactions in Cobb County and statewide were predictably mixed.

Georgia House District 35 Representative Ed Setzler (R-Acworth), the author and sponsor of HB 481, the bill that created the law, wrote the Courier in an email,

Far from the Democrat party I grew up in, the brutality of today’s Democrats who applaud the legalized killing of helpless children sleeping inside of their mothers is sickening to everyday Georgians. The LIFE Act I authored provided unmatched medical care and funding for pregnant mothers and tax benefits to expecting families – things this activist judge blindly ignored.  Thankfully, this is just Chapter 1 in a story that, in the end, will protect these innocent children from a death so violent that even convicted murderers could never be subjected to it: abortion.

Lisa Campbell and Kyle Rinaudo are Democratic candidates in an August 11 run-off election to determine who runs against Setzler in the November 3 general election.

Campbell wrote the Courier in an email:

This ruling is a victory for all Georgia families and their physicians.  The Federal Court affirmed, “It is in the public interest, and it is in this court’s duty, to ensure constitutional rights are protected.”  No one should live in a world where their body is controlled by the government, or where the government interferes between a patient and their doctor.  We will be working hard to make sure bodily autonomy and expanded access to healthcare are protected for all women, especially women of color and marginalized women.  We are buoyed by this ruling but, our work will not be over until access to affordable healthcare, including contraception, abortion, and adequate prenatal and pregnancy care, is recognized as a basic human right. 

Rinaudo could not be reached before the deadline for this article, but his campaign website stated the following about the law:

Last year, our campaign’s opponent sponsored and supported House Bill 481, the so-called “Heartbeat Bill,” which criminalizes access to abortion in Georgia and limits women’s right to choose. While the bill was being debated, Kyle visited the Capitol to lobby our representatives AGAINST this unconstitutional, anti-choice proposal—but sadly, the bill passed anyway with majority GOP support.In the 21st Century, Kyle Rinaudo knows that we need representatives who will protect women’s right to choose, and that’s why he’s running to bring fresh representation to House District 35. 

Statewide reactions to the ruling

Cole Muzio, President of Family Policy Alliance of Georgia, an anti-abortion group, released the following statement in a press release:

Today’s decision reflects both a reckless adherence to the dubious precedent of Roe v. Wade and a wanton abuse of judicial activism. The judge’s decree even robs parents of common sense tax and child support provisions that affirm what mothers and fathers already know – that their baby is a child and already a part of their family. We can no longer sacrifice science and evident truth at the altar of the abortion lobby, and we refuse to continue to allow discrimination of persons based on their developmental status and location. Family Policy Alliance of Georgia stands with Governor Kemp in continuing to fight for this law through the legal process and at the ballot box. As our nation strives to come to a place of recognizing the value of every person, we hope to see this process result in the end of the horrifying systematic oppression of the vulnerable our society: abortion.

Monica Simpson, the executive director of SisterSong, one of the organizations that filed the suit to strike down the law, was quoted in a press release from ACLU Georgia:

As a reproductive justice organization based in Georgia for over 20 years, SisterSong is committed to centering and amplifying the needs of those communities historically pushed to the margins. This win is tremendous, and it is also makes a very bold statement. No one should have to live in a world where their bodies and reproductive decision making is controlled by the state. And we will continue to work to make sure that is never a reality in Georgia or anywhere else.

Background on the bill

House Bill 481 was submitted to the Georgia House of Representatives on Feb. 25 2019.

The bill was passed by the House on March 7 and sent to the Senate the next day.

The bill passed the Senate on March 22, and the House agreed to the Senate’s substitutions.

Governor Brian Kemp signed the bill into law on May 7, and it was expected to go into effect on Jan. 1 2020.

On October 1 2019 Judge Steve Jones, of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia temporarily blocked implementation of the law.

Then on July 13, Judge Jones issued an order permanently blocking the law (read the ruling by following this link).