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Federal judge blocks Georgia law restricting abortion at six weeks

A federal judge has filed a preliminary injunction blocking a restrictive abortion law — also known as the “heartbeat bill”…

By Jenny Scordamaglia , in Politics , at October 3, 2019 Tags: , , ,

A federal judge has filed a preliminary injunction blocking a restrictive abortion law — also known as the “heartbeat bill” — in Georgia from taking effect in January 2020. The judge ruled that the law could not be upheld while a legal challenge is pending against it.

A federal judge handed an early win to abortion rights activists Tuesday by blocking Georgia’s restrictive law from going into effect — but it is only the first step as a lawsuit makes its way through the court system.

District Judge Steve C. Jones’ ruling stops House Bill 481 from taking effect Jan. 1 while the case plays out. Anti-abortion activists are hoping the case winds up in the U.S. Supreme Court.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia sued the state saying the law, which bans most abortions once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, violates a woman’s constitutional right to abortion as established by the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

The new law would have outlawed abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

Jones said the U.S. Supreme Court has “repeatedly and unequivocally” upheld Roe v. Wade, saying a state may not ban abortion before a fetus is viable — established in Roe as between 24 and 26 weeks of pregnancy.

“What is clearly defined, however, is that under no circumstances whatsoever may a state prohibit or ban abortions at any point prior to viability, no matter what interests the state asserts to support it,” Jones wrote. “By banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, HB 481 prohibits women from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy at a point before viability.”

ACLU of Georgia Legal Director Sean J. Young applauded Jones’ decision. The ACLU sued the state on behalf of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, the Feminist Women’s Health Center, Planned Parenthood Southeast and other abortion rights advocates and providers.

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