Pro-choice advocates file new lawsuit against Georgia six-week abortion ban

Challenge comes a week after federal appeals court lifted injunction | Kemp says Georgia will continue to ‘value life’
Group of protesters set to stay on Georgia Capitol steps, rallying for abortion rights
Group of protesters set to stay on Georgia Capitol steps, rallying for abortion rights(WGCL)
Published: Jul. 26, 2022 at 2:15 PM EDT|Updated: Jul. 26, 2022 at 11:23 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - Georgia abortion providers and advocates filed a lawsuit Tuesday in Fulton County Superior Court against the state’s newly implemented, six-week abortion ban.

“Today we’re sending a very clear message that we are not giving up,” said Monica Simpson, Executive Director of SisterSong.

“That this work must continue to ensure that Georgians are able to live in a state where they’re able to make their own decisions about their own lives and their own futures,” Simpson said.

The lawsuit was filed by SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Coalition, a group of organizations that had earlier, and successfully, filed an injunction against the 2019-approved bill, also known as the “heartbeat bill.” That injunction was lifted last week by the 11th Circuit Court Appeals after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Mississippi’s abortion law that bans the procedure after 15 weeks.

That decision, announced June 24, essentially overturns Roe v. Wade, the court’s landmark 1973 ruling which ruled a pregnant woman has the right to choose to an abortion without excessive government restriction.

Tuesday’s challenge said Georgia’s six-week abortion law was void from the start under Georgia judicial precedent because it violated federal constitutional precedent when enacted in 2019, and a subsequent change in federal law cannot revive it. The lawsuit also said “the Georgia Constitution’s especially strong protection for the fundamental right to privacy prohibits this political interference with an individual’s deeply personal and medically consequential decision whether to continue a pregnancy.”

The challenge is asking the state to immediately block the law while this new lawsuit proceeds in the courts.

The plaintiffs said they have filed a temporary restraining order, which, if approved by a superior court judge, could temporarily block the abortion ban as soon as August 2.

Groups participating in the challenge include the American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Georgia; Planned Parenthood Federation of America and Planned Parenthood Southeast; the Atlanta Comprehensive Wellness Clinic; the Atlanta Women’s Medical Center, and others.

A news release accompanying the challenge said “a six-week abortion ban is particularly dangerous in Georgia, where the maternal mortality rate is alarmingly high, especially among Black Georgians. Additionally, forced pregnancy can derail people’s education, career, and life plans, resulting in greater economic hardship for the pregnant person, their children, and their families.”

“Georgia is a state that values life at all stages, and the Georgia LIFE Act, which is now law, is one of many measures that reflects those values, much like our work with partners in the Georgia General Assembly to expand pregnancy and parental resources, extend health coverage to a full year for mothers after birth, improve our adoption system, reform our foster care system, and protect those most vulnerable,” said Katie Byrd, spokesperson for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp. “We will continue the important work of protecting life at all stages and increasing supportive services for mothers and their children before, during, and after birth.”

Abortion in Georgia had been legal up to 20 weeks after conception.

Some legal experts told CBS46 News this lawsuit is more than just a symbolic move by the plaintiffs - that a judge could indeed block the 6-week abortion ban while the courts review the lawsuit.

“I think there’s a strong likelihood the Fulton County court will impose an injunction,” said Anthony Kreis, Constitutional Law professor at Georgia State University.

Kreis said the plaintiffs have merit to their challenge because of the state constitution’s strong commitment to the right to privacy.

“As far as state constitutions go, Georgia has the most robust and the longest history of the right to privacy and that extends to medical decision making,” Kreis explained.

He pointed to right to death – protected in Georgia’s constitution but not the federal constitution – and the right to reject medical care – as right’s of privacy upheld in the state constitution.

“There are a lot of rights that we have as a state constitutional matter that the federal constitution doesn’t provide. So this is actually one of the more significant legal developments we’re seeing across the country post Dobbs,” said Kreis.