ATLANTA (AP) – A lawsuit to determine whether Georgia can continue to ban abortion beyond six weeks of pregnancy begins Monday in an Atlanta courtroom.
Fulton County Superior Court judge Robert McBurney has scheduled two days of testimony in a lawsuit seeking to repeal the law on multiple grounds, including that it violates the Georgian Constitution’s right to privacy and freedom by “counting countless Georgians to impose”.
The state attorney general’s office responded in a court filing that Georgia’s privacy protections do not extend to abortion because it affects another “human life.”
Georgian law prohibits most abortions once a “detectable human heartbeat” is present. Heart activity can be detected by ultrasound in cells in an embryo that will eventually become the heart as early as six weeks of pregnancy. That means most abortions in Georgia are effectively banned at a time before many women know they are pregnant.
The doctors and advocacy groups who filed the lawsuit for McBurney in July also allege that the law was invalid from the start because it violated the US Constitution and the US Supreme Court precedent when it was enacted.
The Georgia law was passed by state lawmakers and signed by Republican government leader Brian Kemp in 2019, but it was blocked from taking effect until the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had protected the right to abortion for nearly 50 years. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed Georgia to begin enforcing the abortion law just over three weeks after the Supreme Court’s decision in June.
The law includes exceptions for rape and incest, as long as it is reported to the police, and allows subsequent abortions when the mother’s life is in danger or a serious medical condition renders a fetus unviable.
The state has argued that the Roe decision itself was wrong and the Supreme Court ruling overturned it.
In August, McBurney rejected a petition from the plaintiffs to immediately block the abortion law while the lawsuit was pending, though he emphasized that the decision does not touch the substance of the case. Earlier this month, he turned down a request from state officials to postpone the trial, which he decides, not a jury.
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