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Georgia Judge Blocks Restrictive 'Heartbeat' Abortion Law


A judge from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia blocked Georgia's restrictive abortion law on Oct. 1 following a lawsuit and discussions of its constitutional validity,

The Washington Post reported that Georgia House Bill 481, also known as the "Heartbeat Bill," caused controversy when Republican Governor Brian Kemp signed it into law earlier this May. The law bans abortions following the presence of a heartbeat in an embryo, defining the point of viability at six weeks. Once the heartbeat exists, an embryo is considered a natural person, regardless of the argument that most women can't recognize they are pregnant at six weeks.

Despite exceptions for rape, incest and medical emergencies where the mother's life is compromised, Georgia's new abortion law is not only regarded as one of the most restrictive in the country but one that is unconstitutional as well. 

In his preliminary injunction, Judge Steve C. Jones stated he blocked the law because it would cause "irreparable harm" and that "under no circumstances whatsoever may a State prohibit or ban abortions at any point prior to viability, no matter what interests the State asserts to support it," according to The Washington Post. 

Jones views the ban as a constitutional violation, specifically of Roe v. Wade. The 1973 U.S. Supreme Court Case established women's right to an abortion and established fetus viability between 24 and 26 weeks of pregnancy, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

"By banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, HB 481 prohibits women from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy at a point before viability," Jones said in the injunction. 

The block will temporarily ensure the law does not go into effect on its scheduled date of Jan. 1, as many activists, lawyers and organizations hope the case goes to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) was particularly invested in the case. 

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ICYMI: Yesterday, we blocked Georgia's unconstitutional abortion ban. Here's what happened.

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"This case has always been about one thing: letting her decide," Sean J. Young, the legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a press statement. "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but every woman is entitled to her own decision." 

In June, the ACLU filed a challenge to the law along with a lawsuit on behalf of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, the Feminist Women's Health Center, Planned Parenthood Southeast and a number of other organizations, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

If the case goes the Supreme Court, the law could be permanently ruled unconstitutional and blocked but as of now, litigation is still pending. 

"This is a victory for people in Georgia and a reminder that these attacks on abortion access are illegal," the ACLU said in a statement. "Abortion is still legal in all 50 states. We won't stop fighting until we defeat all efforts to block access." 

The ACLU of Georgia will launched a Youtube series, "Stop. The. Bans. American Physicians Speak Out," on Oct. 15 to discuss the implications of an abortion ban becoming law in the world of doctors as they await action from the U.S. Supreme Court. 

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