State Court Temporarily Blocks Georgia’s 20 Week Abortion Ban

A state court judge ruled the state of Georgia could not ban abortions pre-viabilty.

Judge Doris Downs. Photo: The Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Women’s health advocates got some good news before the end of the year as a state judge temporarily suspended a Georgia law that bans pre-viability abortions.

The law bans doctors from performing abortions five months after an egg is fertilized, except when doctors decide a fetus has a defect so severe it cannot live and in very narrow circumstances to protect the life or health of the mother. The law would have criminalized virtually all abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy and is designed to drive providers out of the state.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and the ACLU of Georgia challenged the law on behalf of three Georgia obstetrician-gynecologists whose patients include women in need of this essential medical care. “This law places women in harm’s way by depriving them of the right to make their own serious medical decisions,” said Alexa Kolbi-Molinas, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Politicians should not place ideology over a woman’s health.”

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Doris Downs suspended the law just as it was set to take effect on January 1st.

“We’re glad that this dangerous, overreaching law has been put on hold,” said Chad Brock, staff attorney with the ACLU of Georgia. “If our elected officials want to help women, they should be passing laws that increase their access to vital health services— not putting them in jeopardy by denying them critical care.”

The battle over pre-viability bans like this Georgia law and others in Arizona, are designed to strike at the heart of Roe v. Wade. So far courts have been reluctant to move permanently away from pre-viability as the final barrier to re-criminalizing abortion, but as these laws become more nuanced, it might not matter as the procedure will be so heavily regulated it will be practically impossible to access.