ACLU of Georgia

Press Release: Georgia State Court Blocks Unconstitutional Six-Week Abortion Ban

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: November 15, 2022
CONTACTS: 
ACLU: media@aclu.org
ACLU of Georgia: media@acluga.org
CRR: center.press@reprorights.org
PPFA: media.office@ppfa.org
PPSE: Press@ppse.org
SisterSong: sistersong@berlinrosen.com

ATLANTA — The Superior Court of Fulton County today struck down Georgia’s ban on abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, allowing health care providers in the state to once again provide essential abortion and miscarriage care to Georgians beyond the earliest weeks in pregnancy. The court’s injunction was issued in a lawsuit filed by abortion providers and advocates earlier this year. 

In the court order issued today, Judge Robert McBurney struck down the six-week abortion ban, declaring that the law was void from the start. The Georgia Constitution prohibits the legislature from passing laws that violate federal constitutional precedent, which the ban clearly did when enacted in 2019. Judge McBurney further ruled that a subsequent change in federal constitutional law, which happened with Dobbs, does not revive the ban. Instead, if the legislature wishes to ban abortion, it must pass a new law “in the sharp glare of public attention that will undoubtedly and properly attend such an important and consequential debate,” Judge McBurney wrote in his order.

Below are statements from plaintiffs and litigators:

“After a long road, we are finally able to celebrate the end of an extreme abortion ban in our state,” said Monica Simpson, Executive Director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, the lead plaintiff in the case. “While we applaud the end of a ban steeped in white supremacy, it should not have existed in the first place. Now, it’s time to move forward with a vision for Georgia that establishes full bodily autonomy and liberation for our communities. 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. We will have to keep fighting in Georgia to hold our legislators accountable, but this ruling proves we have the power to keep winning.”

“Today’s ruling is an enormous victory for our patients and our state,” said Kwajelyn Jackson, executive director of Feminist Women’s Health Center. “Our mission for the last nearly 50 years has been to provide our patients with access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care, including abortion. With today’s victory under our belts, we will be able to finally resume providing this essential health care to our community.”

“Today’s ruling is a sigh of relief for Georgians who have suffered the severe consequences of Gov. Kemp’s ban on abortion from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, which is causing particular harm among Black and low-income communities,” said Julia Kaye, staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project. “For months, countless Georgians have faced a nightmarish choice: suffer the medical risks of pregnancy and life-altering consequences of childbirth against their will, or else flee thousands of miles out of state in search of time-sensitive health care. And when politicians criminalize health care, the result is that doctors across Georgia fear that providing medically appropriate care for a pregnancy complication will land them in prison. Today’s decision was a victory for justice, compassion, and medicine, but we know Gov. Kemp will keep trying to put his cruel ban back into effect. We won’t stop fighting until every person has the power to decide if and when to have a child, in Georgia and across this country.”

“Today’s ruling recognizes that the legislature’s decision to take away abortion access across our state was in clear violation of the law,” said Andrea Young, executive director of ACLU of Georgia. “Today is a great day for Georgia women and for all Georgians. Today their right to make decisions for their own bodies, health, and families is vindicated. We hope that the Georgia Supreme Court affirms that right, and in doing so affirms the long-standing Georgia rule that the legislature cannot pass laws that disregard our constitutional protections.”

“We celebrate this victory in Georgia that restores the right to abortion and reproductive freedom,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. “For months, Georgians have suffered the consequences of a cruel abortion ban. Today’s ruling means that patients will no longer be deprived of their autonomy and forced to be pregnant longer than they want to be. While we are grateful to once again be able to provide care in the state of Georgia, the fight for reproductive freedom continues across the country. We will continue to fight so that every person in Georgia and beyond is able to receive the care they deserve without fear of prosecution or harm.”

“Thankfully, today’s ruling offers relief from our state’s devastating abortion ban, but make no mistake: the threat to Georgians’ health and rights will remain so long as politicians try to interfere with our personal decisions,” said Amy Kennedy, vice president of external affairs at Planned Parenthood Southeast. “We already know that abortion opponents will stop at nothing until abortion has been completely outlawed. This is a critical step in the long fight for reproductive freedom. We are prepared to do everything we can to ensure abortion care is available and accessible to everyone in Georgia.”

“This is a welcome reprieve to the people of Georgia, who have been suffering under this extreme abortion ban for months,” said Autumn Katz, Interim Director of Litigation at the Center for Reproductive Rights. “As we saw in the midterms, most Americans do not want politicians dictating their reproductive choices. Everyone deserves the fundamental right to make decisions about their own bodies, families, and futures. We will continue to fight tooth and nail for Georgians and people across the country.”

During a trial held in October, health care providers and other experts testified that the abortion ban has had devastating consequences for Georgians’ health and lives. The ban forces Georgians seeking abortion after the earliest weeks of pregnancy to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles out of state for care, and that’s only if they can pull together the resources to do so. Georgians and other people seeking care in states where it’s still legal face long wait times for appointments. Many of those who cannot surmount the tremendous financial and logistical barriers of getting abortion care in other states are forced to carry their pregnancy to term and give birth against their will. 

Evidence shows that being denied an abortion can have lasting health and financial consequences for people and their families, including elevated health risks during and after pregnancy; and derailed educational, career, and life plans. For some, the consequences of the ban can be deadly. Black Georgians face myriad barriers to accessing reproductive health care, including structural racism within the health care system. As a result, Black women in Georgia experience maternal mortality and pregnancy complications at a rate more than two times that of non-Hispanic white women.

This case was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, the Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Georgia-based law firms Caplan Cobb and Bondurant Mixson & Elmore 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, Summit Medical Associates, P.C., Carrie Cwiak, M.D., M.P.H., Lisa Haddad, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., Eva Lathrop, M.D., M.P.H., and Medical Students for Choice.

 

A copy of the ruling issued today can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/legal-document/sistersong-v-georgia-order-motion-partial-judgement-and-motion-dismiss

A copy of this release can be found here: https://www.aclu.org/press-releases/georgia-state-court-blocks-unconstitutional-six-week-abortion-ban

An overview of the case can be found online here: https://www.aclu.org/cases/sistersong-v-state-georgia

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