ATLANTA — Today, the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood filed a motion for summary judgment in their lawsuit challenging Georgia’s abortion ban, SisterSong v. Kemp. The motion asks the court to block the ban permanently from taking effect.
The lawsuit, filed in June 2019, challenges Georgia’s abortion ban which was set to take effect on January 1, 2020. The law would ban abortion care from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, before many women even know they are pregnant.
According to the lawsuit, Georgia’s abortion ban is in clear violation of Roe v. Wade and nearly a half century of Supreme Court precedent reaffirming Roe’s central holding. Writing for the court in 1992, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor wrote, “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”
On October 1, 2019, the federal district court granted the plaintiffs motion for preliminary injunctive relief and temporarily blocked the ban from taking effect while the lawsuit is pending. The preliminary injunction will remain in place until the court explicitly says otherwise.
If plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment is granted, the abortion ban will be permanently blocked unless an appeals court says otherwise.
“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. Georgia’s maternal mortality rate is the second highest in the nation and Black women in our state are dying at six times the national average. SisterSong is bringing this lawsuit to protect maternal health and reproductive rights so that every person – especially persons of color – can thrive in their families and communities as well as maintain their human right to make their own decisions about their reproductive lives,” said Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong.
“While every person is entitled to their own opinion, every woman is entitled to her own decision,” said Sean J. Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia. “These are private decisions that should be made free of government interference.”
“Feminist Women’s Health Center has been providing comprehensive reproductive health services, including abortion care, to Georgians since 1976 and mobilizing in our communities since 1996. The stakes are always high for the communities we serve; We will not stop until there is a fundamental shift in access to healthcare and reproductive justice in the South for everyone,” said Kwajelyn J. Jackson, executive director of Feminist Women’s Health Center.
According to a 2019 Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, 70 percent of Georgians support Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that guaranteed the right to an abortion.
“In 2019, there were 25 abortion bans enacted in 12 states, including Georgia. If there’s one thing this unprecedented attack on reproductive health and rights has shown us, it’s that we don’t have the luxury of being a health care provider or an advocate. We must be both. Because our patients’ constitutional rights are on the line. And if we don’t continue to fight back, their lives will be on the line too,” said Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast.
“Georgia’s abortion ban flies in the face of nearly half a century of Supreme Court precedent, beginning with Roe v. Wade,” said Emily Nestler, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “This is a clear-cut case, and there is no need for a trial. Bans like this have always been struck down by the courts and this one should meet the same fate.”
“In a state with a critical shortage of medical providers and some of the highest rates of maternal and infant deaths, especially among Black Georgians, politicians should focus on expanding access to reproductive care, not banning abortion before someone even knows they’re pregnant,” said Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project.
The organizations bringing forward the lawsuit are SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, Feminist Women’s Health Center, Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc., Atlanta Comprehensive Wellness Clinic, Atlanta Women’s Medical Center, FemHealth USA d/b/a carafem, Columbus Women’s Health Organization, P.C., Summit Medical Associates, P.C., Carrie Cwiak, M.D., M.P.H., Lisa Haddad, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., and Eva Lathrop, M.D., M.P.H.
The defendants in the case are Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Attorney General Christopher M. Carr, Commissioner for the Department of Public Health Kathleen Toomey, the Executive Director and Members of the Georgia Composite Medical Board, and the District Attorneys for the counties where the plaintiffs provide medical care — all sued in their official capacities.
SisterSong v. Kemp was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division.
Georgia is one of several states that passed laws banning abortion last year, representing an unprecedented surge of legislation designed to initiate a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade.
Aside from Georgia, Alabama passed a near-total ban; Kentucky, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Ohio passed six-week bans; Missouri passed an eight-week ban; and Utah and Arkansas passed 18-week bans. None of these bans have gone into effect. Some have been temporarily blocked by a court and others are being challenged before the effective date. Abortion is still legal in all 50 states.
The ACLU has challenged the bans in Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky and Ohio, among other litigation. The Center for Reproductive Rights has challenged Mississippi’s six-week ban and 15-week ban, as well as North Carolina’s 20-week ban, all of which have been blocked.