ACLU of Georgia

ACLU of Georgia, legal partners challenge state’s six-week abortion ban at trial

Plaintiffs' witnesses provide testimony about real-world consequences of ban

by Jerzy Shedlock

Pictured from left, Nora Benavidez, director of Digital Justice and Civil Rights for Free Press; Fallon McClure, ACLU of Georgia deputy policy and advocacy director; and Jack Kennedy, executive vice president, chief legal officer and secretary of KORE Wireless.

On Monday and Tuesday, attorneys with the ACLU of Georgia and our legal partners laid out a case challenging H.B. 481 during a trial in the Superior Court of Fulton County. Georgia medical providers and experts provided informative and emotional testimony about the law, which bans abortion at approximately six weeks of pregnancy — before many people even know they are pregnant.

Their testimony showed that under the ban, Georgians who need abortion care after approximately six weeks in pregnancy are denied essential treatment even under emergency circumstances, and continue their pregnancies against their will, or self-manage their abortion without medical support. During the trial, medical experts — including abortion provider Dr. Carrie Cwiak and ultrasound technician Gloria Nesmith — testified about the impact of the ban occurring statewide. Nesmith’s testimony was particularly powerful; she told the court many tears have been shed at her clinic due to the ban. Dr. Cwiak testified that such a ban is far too restrictive, due in part to the frequency of “complex cases,” pregnancies involving people with underlying health issues. “Many of my patients are having difficulty understanding why I can’t provide previously available medical care. They often wonder aloud what they’re going to do,” Dr. Cwiak told the court. 

In contrast, the state presented a handful of out-of-state witnesses, including a Texas provider whose credibility was questioned by a Florida judge this summer. 

The state’s witnesses “relied on debunked, junk science to advocate for the state’s continued regulation of women’s bodies, and continued intrusion into Georgia doctors’ ability to treat their patients with the care they deem appropriate. Everyday this ban remains in effect is devastating. We look forward to a just outcome in this case, which is an outcome that returns reproductive health decisions to pregnant people, their doctors, and their families,” Cory Isaacson, ACLU of Georgia legal director, told reporters following the trial’s conclusion on Tuesday.

Post-trial briefs are due to the court on November 4 and November 10. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney will make his ruling at a later date.

Media coverage:

Fulton judge to rule on Georgia’s abortion law in coming weeks

Court witnesses debate role of exceptions in Georgia abortion law; judge’s decision to come later

Judge hears testimony in bid to strike Georgia abortion law

Georgia calls witnesses in defense of abortion law at trial

Georgia’s abortion law is more uncertainty for patients undergoing fertility treatments

Jerzy Shedlock (he/him) is a communications specialist at the ACLU of Georgia.