U.S. Appeals Court Judges Say Mississippi's Supreme Court Abortion Case Could Influence Georgia Abortion Case

By Hayley Mason | CBS46 | September 24, 2021

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ATLANTA (CBS46) — The U.S. Court of Appeals 11th Circuit heard oral arguments Friday morning in the lawsuit over Georgia’s six-week abortion ban.

The law passed the Georgia legislature in 2019 and was signed into law, slated to take effect January 2020. It was blocked by the courts before it could be enacted. Planned Parenthood and reproductive justice group, SisterSong, sued the state over the restrictive abortion ban stating that it violates Roe v. Wade by creating obstacles for women to get an abortion.

“The question is whether regulation has the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a non-viable fetus,” Judge William Pryor told Attorney Jeffrey Harris during the hearing Monday. Harris is taking on the appeals case on behalf of the state.

“The stipulations are what they are. It is true that a lot of abortions happen 6 to 7 weeks thereafter, but Dr. Scopp would have talked about if the law were to go enforced what would have been the feasibility of detecting and obtaining abortions in light of changes like that,” Harris explained about a doctor’s testimony that was not admitted into the court record.

State Rep. Ed Setzler who sponsored the bill told CBS46 he was optimistic after Texas passed its 6-week abortion ban, hopeful it would help the Georgia case.

Now, it’s all eyes on the Mississippi case facing the Supreme Court in December. It creates a 15-week abortion ban. Judge Harris says he wants to wait to see what the Supreme Court rules in that case, before making a decision here.

“If the court rules that that ban is unconstitutional then it makes this case a lot easier doesn’t it,” Pryor told the attorneys, he’d rather the Supreme Court do some of the work for them in the Georgia case, before ruling.

“I simply point out that the court may do the work for you or it may address a 15-week ban that prohibits substantially less abortions than the case does here,” said Elizabeth Watson, the attorney representing the plaintiff’s in the Georgia appeals case. “We have 87% of abortions being banned under this law.”

Planned Parenthood is also the lead plaintiff in the Mississippi case.

“They won’t rule or issue a ruling until June of 2022, so this court could wait until then,” said Staci Fox, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast. “Of course we are worried about copy cats, but I think the important thing to realize here in Georgia is this law only passed out of the House by two votes. It’s be no means a referendum and so many Georgians support access to fair and legal abortion.”

Currently abortion is legal in Georgia, Fox added.

The Georgia Attorney General’s office told CBS46 it cannot comment on pending litigation.