A Fulton County judge has overturned Georgia’s six-week abortion ban, ruling that two key parts of the law “were plainly unconstitutional when drafted, voted upon, and enacted” and writing that the law cannot be enforced.
The 15-page ruling by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney stemmed from a lawsuit that argued the state’s “heartbeat bill” violated pregnant people’s liberty and privacy rights under Georgia’s constitution. The plaintiffs also argued that the law violated the U.S. Constitution at the time it was enacted — in 2019, when Roe v. Wade was still the law of the land.
“It’s just really important for Georgians to see these types of wins when the opposition is working so hard to push us back,” said Monica Simpson, executive director of advocacy group SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, the lead plaintiff in the case.
After Tuesday’s decision, abortion access in Georgia reverted to the pre-ban level of up to 22 weeks of pregnancy.
Andrew Isenhour, a spokesman for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R), said in a statement that the ruling “places the personal beliefs of a judge over the will of the legislature and people of Georgia.” The Georgia attorney general’s office immediately filed an appeal to the Georgia Supreme Court.
Georgia’s abortion law was among the strictest in the country when Kemp signed it into law in 2019. The law bans abortions after fetal cardiac activity is detected, at roughly six weeks. It had been blocked from taking effect until this summer, when the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade’s decades-old protections.
In his decision, McBurney wrote that “per controlling Georgia precedent,” the relevant legal environment to consider is “not our current post-Roe Dobbsian era but rather the legal environment that existed when H.B. 481 was enacted.”
“At that time — the spring of 2019 — everywhere in America, including Georgia, it was unequivocally unconstitutional for governments — federal, state, or local — to ban abortions before viability,” he wrote.