ACLU of Georgia

Press Release: Georgia Six-Week Abortion Ban to Take Effect

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: July 20, 2022

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UPDATE: In a highly unorthodox move, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an immediate stay of a lower court’s injunction of Georgia’s six-week ban, rather than waiting the normal 28-day period for the official mandate to be issued. This means the state’s six-week ban takes effect today, pushing abortion out of reach for Georgians before many even know they’re pregnant. The court took this action on its own, without any request from the state, and outside of the normal court procedures. 

Joint statement from the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Southeast, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America:

“This is a highly unorthodox action that will immediately push essential abortion care out of reach for patients beyond the earliest stages of pregnancy. Across the state, providers are now being forced to turn away patients who thought they would be able to access abortion, immediately changing the course of their lives and futures. This is horrific. We’ll continue doing everything in our power to fight for abortion access in Georgia in the face of these harmful attacks on people’s ability to control if and when to have a child.”

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ATLANTA — The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a ruling today that will allow Georgia’s H.B. 481 to take effect later this summer, banning abortion at approximately six weeks of pregnancy — before many people even know they’re pregnant — and redefining “person” throughout Georgia law to include an embryo or fetus at any stage of development. The abortion ban will also impact miscarriage management, threatening physicians with draconian criminal penalties if they provide medically appropriate care for an in-progress miscarriage unless their patient’s health has already deteriorated to the point of a medical emergency.

The six-week abortion ban, passed in 2019, was previously blocked by a district court ruling that found it unconstitutional, but the 11th Circuit reversed that decision today in light of the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade. In its decision, the 11th Circuit also vacated the lower court’s order blocking a provision of H.B. 481 that defines embryos and fetuses at any stage of development as “persons” throughout Georgia law, but permitted plaintiffs to return to the district court and raise further constitutional challenges to specific Georgia statutes amended by the redefinition of personhood.

The 11th Circuit’s decision does not take effect until the court’s official mandate is issued, typically 28 days after an appellate court’s decision. Until then, abortion remains legal in Georgia up to 21 weeks and six days of pregnancy, as dated from a patient’s last menstrual period.

“Abortion bans hurt Black Women, low-income folks, and Queer and trans families the most,” said Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.“The women and families of Georgia deserve better. We all deserve better. No matter how long it takes, we are here in this battle until everyone has full bodily autonomy.”

“The ACLU of Georgia will continue to fight for abortion rights for the women of Georgia with all of the tools at our disposal,” said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. “At the same time, Georgia voters have the opportunity to vote out politicians who oppose a woman’s right to decide when, whether, and with whom she wants to have a family.”

“Once today’s court order takes effect, Gov. Kemp and his radical political allies will be able to force Georgians to carry pregnancies and give birth against their will, with profound medical risk and life-altering consequences,” said Julia Kaye, staff attorney, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “In the wake of the Supreme Court’s historically shameful decision, millions of people across the country have lost the right to abortion, while doctors live in fear that even providing miscarriage care will land them in prison. It is horrifying that extremist politicians and judges have forced pregnant people and their health care providers into this nightmare. We’ll continue using every tool at our disposal to fight for abortion access in Georgia and across the country so that everyone has the power to decide if and when to have a child.”

“This announcement is an affront to our personal rights and goes against the will of the vast majority of Georgians who believe in the bodily autonomy of all in our state,” said Amy Kennedy, vice president of external affairs, Planned Parenthood Southeast. “The people have just been robbed of their ability to make the decisions that are best for themselves, their lives, and their futures. No matter what the courts say, people deserve access to abortion — and Planned Parenthood is here to help you get the care you need. We remain committed to helping Georgians access abortion care, and our doors are open for non-judgmental information, resources, and financial and logistical support.”

“Today, politicians have shamefully come between Georgians and their ability to control their own bodies and determine their own futures,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “Since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and forced us into a public health crisis, states across the country have swiftly moved to ban abortion, and patients have had to travel farther and farther to access essential health care in a place where it’s still legal. Soon, Georgians past the earliest stages of pregnancy will face that same barrier, and it will be insurmountable for some. People who can’t afford to leave the state will be forced to seek abortion outside the health care system or remain pregnant against their will. This is a grave human rights violation, and Planned Parenthood, along with its partners, will do everything in our power to fight back and ensure all people can get the health care they need, regardless of where they live.”

“If this law is allowed to take effect next month, it will devastate our communities here in Georgia, with the heaviest impact falling on Black women and other marginalized groups,” said Kwajelyn J. Jackson, Executive Director of Feminist Women’s Health Center. “This cruel abortion ban would deny our patients the right to make decisions about their own pregnancies, bodies, and futures. We won’t stop fighting on their behalf.”

“In just a few weeks, we have already seen large swaths of the south eliminate virtually all access to abortion,” said Alice Wang, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “If this law takes effect, pregnant people in Georgia will either be forced to travel hundreds of miles to access essential health care if they have the means to do so, or forced to carry their pregnancies to term and give birth against their will. Doctors will be forced to choose between providing time-sensitive, medically necessary care and risking criminal prosecution. We will continue to fight to preserve abortion access in Georgia.”

The six-week abortion ban will force countless Georgians to carry a pregnancy against their will and suffer the life-altering consequences of forced childbirth, or to search for essential care in another state if they have the resources to travel. Banning abortion at six weeks of pregnancy will forever change the lives of people who are denied the care they need, including enduring serious health risks from continued pregnancy and childbirth; making it harder to escape poverty; derailing education, career, and life plans; and making it more difficult to leave an abusive partner. The ban — which criminalizes abortion care before many know they are pregnant — is especially dangerous in Georgia, which has some of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the nation, especially among Black Georgians.

This case was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America on behalf of 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 11th Circuit ruling can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/sistersong-v-kemp-eleventh-circuit-opinion

 This release can be found online here: https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/georgia-six-week-abortion-ban-take-effect

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