A federal judge Monday blocked a Georgia law from taking effect that would ban most abortions after a heartbeat is detected, marking a pivotal decision in a case that has enflamed passions in the state for more than a year.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Steve Jones approved a permanent injunction of the law sought by several pro-choice groups in June 2019 shortly after the General Assembly passed legislation to impose the restrictive abortion ban.
Jones’ ruling follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this month that struck down a restrictive abortion law in Louisiana. Previously, Jones said he planned to await an outcome in that case before issuing his own order.
Jones handed down a single-paragraph ruling Monday that found the law to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment equal-protection clause.
Backers of the push to overturn Georgia’s abortion law hailed the court ruling Monday as a win for the right-to-choose movement, calling it a repudiation of governmental overreach in reproductive issues.
“This moves us further into the future we all want to live in,” said Monica Simpson, executive director of the nonprofit SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective. “No one deserves to live in a country where their bodies or their reproductive decision-making are dictated by the state.”
Gov. Brian Kemp’s office quickly pledged to appeal the ruling, potentially setting up a future U.S. Supreme Court battle.
“Georgia values life, and we will keep fighting for the rights of the unborn,” said Cody Hall, the governor’s press secretary.
Georgia’s law on abortions would have been among the most restrictive in the country had it been allowed to take effect at the start of this year.
It would have banned all abortions in the state before a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks. Certain exceptions would have been permitted such as for medical emergencies.
Legislation creating the abortion ban passed out of the General Assembly in March 2019 by partisan margins and following fierce debate on both sides of the aisle.
Several groups including SisterSong and Planned Parenthood filed suit after the bill’s passage, arguing it posed an unconstitutional violation of women’s reproductive rights set in the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s Georgia branch, which represented the suing groups, noted a separate federal court also struck down an abortion ban in Tennessee on Monday.