A judge on Tuesday overturned Georgia’s six-week abortion ban, ruling it was unconstitutional.
The so-called “Heartbeat Bill” was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019 but was prevented from going into effect after legal challenges.
In July, three weeks after the Supreme Court ruled Roe v. Wade, which guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion, a federal appeals court ruled that the ban could go into effect.
The law prohibits performing abortions when the fetus’s heartbeat may be disturbed, which typically occurs after about the sixth week of pregnancy — before many women know they’re pregnant — and redefines the Georgia word “person” to mean an embryo or to include fetus at any stage of development.
There are exceptions in the case of rape or incest up to the 22nd week of pregnancy, provided the victim has reported it to the police. In addition, a patient may have an abortion after 22 weeks if the fetus has defects and would not be viable, or if the patient’s life is in danger.
Several groups — including the American Civil Liberties Union, ACLU of Georgia, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective — filed a lawsuit arguing that the ban violated the Right to privacy violates political conclusion protected by the Constitution of Georgia.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney agreed, saying it was against the law because the ban was signed before Roe was lifted.
“At that time — the spring of 2019 — anywhere in America, including Georgia, it was clearly unconstitutional for governments — federal, state, or local — to ban abortion before it was feasible,” McBurney wrote, referring to the original passage the 6-week ban.
Georgian lawmakers must pass a new law in the current political landscape and “in the harsh public eye” for it to be legal, the judge wrote.
“Under Dobbs, it may one day become Georgia law, but only after our Legislature has determined whether the rights of unborn children allow such a restriction, in the keen light of the public attention that will no doubt and duly participate in so important and momentous a debate.” of women justify the right to bodily autonomy and privacy,” the judge wrote.
Abortion rights activists celebrated the ruling, including Alexis McGill Johnson, CEO of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
“Georgia’s abortion ban has been declared UNENFORCEABLE. The enormity of this victory is worth celebrating,” she said tweeted. “Please know we will continue to fight so that every person in Georgia can receive the care they deserve without fear of prosecution or harm.”
Currently, at least 13 states have suspended almost all abortion services, including Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia.
That total includes Wisconsin, where GOP lawmakers have argued that now that Roe is overturned, a near-total 19th-century abortion ban should be state law. However, Democratic lawmakers have complained, arguing that the more than a century-old law clashes with more recent abortion laws. As the legal challenge unfolds, providers have suspended abortion services.
ABC News’ Cheyenne Haslett and Ben Stein contributed to this report.