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Federal appeals court rules that Georgia’s fetal heartbeat bill can take effect

(The Center Square) — A federal appeals judge ruled Wednesday that Georgia’s fetal heartbeat law can take effect following a U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

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In 2019, Georgia lawmakers passed House Bill 481, the Living Infants Fairness Equality Act, commonly called the “Heartbeat Bill.” It would ban most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected — usually after about six weeks.

In 2019, U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones blocked the law because the U.S. Supreme Court had previously upheld Roe v. Wade. In September 2021, an appeals court issued a stay pending June’s Supreme Court ruling in a case stemming from Mississippi that struck down Roe v. Wade.

Following the Supreme Court ruling, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asked the 11th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals to reverse the district court decision.

“Since taking office in 2019, our family has committed to serving Georgia in a way that cherishes and values each and every human being, and today’s decision by the 11th Circuit affirms our promise to protect life at all stages,” Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, said. “…We have worked hard to increase supportive services for mothers and their children — before, during, and after birth.

“…We are overjoyed that the court has paved the way for the implementation of Georgia’s LIFE Act, and as mothers navigate pregnancy, birth, parenthood, or alternative options to parenthood — like adoption — Georgia’s public, private, and non-profit sectors stand ready to provide the resources they need to be safe, healthy, and informed,” Kemp added.

However, opponents of the ban contend most Georgians oppose the ruling and say it will hurt low-income Georgians.

“If this law takes effect, pregnant people in Georgia will either be forced to travel hundreds of miles to access essential health care if they have the means to do so, or forced to carry their pregnancies to term and give birth against their will,” Alice Wang, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement. “Doctors will be forced to choose between providing time-sensitive, medically necessary care and risking criminal prosecution.”

A joint statement by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Southeast and Planned Parenthood Federation of America also assailed the decision.

“This is a highly unorthodox action that will immediately push essential abortion care out of reach for patients beyond the earliest stages of pregnancy. Across the state, providers are now being forced to turn away patients who thought they would be able to access abortion, immediately changing the course of their lives and futures. This is horrific.

“We’ll continue doing everything in our power to fight for abortion access in Georgia in the face of these harmful attacks on people’s ability to control if and when to have a child.”

According to a news release, the ruling will take effect once the appeals court’s “official mandate” is issued, which happens in about 28 days.

By T.A. DeFeo | The Center Square contributor

The Georgia Virtue
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