Abortion-rights advocates challenge Georgia six-week abortion ban in state court

Abortion-rights supporters rally in front of the Georgia State Capitol after the overturning of Roe. Wade by the US Supreme Court on June 25, 2022. (Matthew Pearson/WABE)

Almost a week after a federal court allowed Georgia’s restrictive 2019 abortion law to take effect, providers of abortion services and abortion-rights advocacy groups are challenging the law in Fulton County State Court.

Georgia’s law known as H.B. 481 bans most abortions at around six weeks of pregnancy, when electrical activity can be detected in the womb and before many people know they are pregnant.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the law to take effect last week following the Supreme Court’s recent ruling overturning Roe v. Wade abortion guarantees.

H.B. 481 had previously been blocked by a lower court.

In a lawsuit filed Tuesday on behalf of plaintiffs including SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, the Atlanta Feminist Women’s Health Center, Planned Parenthood Southeast and other groups, ACLU attorneys argue the state’s six-week law violates state constitutional privacy protections.

“H.B. 481 infringes Georgians’ fundamental right under the Georgia Constitution to be free from unwarranted State interference with their “life, . . . body, . . . [and] health,” saying this is “a liberty interest that inherently encompasses an individual’s decision whether to carry a pregnancy to term,” the document reads.

A copy of the lawsuit can be found online here.

It also argues that the six-week law interferes with the doctor-patient relationship and challenges a provision in abortion law that permits district attorneys to examine patients’ medical records.

Attorneys say the ban would disproportionately impact people who are unable to access an abortion in Georgia before the six-week cutoff or travel out of state for the procedure, worsening the state’s already high rate of maternal mortality.

“It is difficult to imagine a greater infringement on an individual’s right to liberty and privacy than to be forced to undergo pregnancy and hours or days of labor and delivery and then, in most cases, parent a child for the rest of their lives,” ACLU staff attorney Julia Kaye said.

The ACLU lawsuit is asking the state court to block the six-week abortion law while it hears the case.

In a written statement, Georgia attorney general Chris Carr says his office is still reviewing the lawsuit.

The case is assigned to Judge Robert McBurney. 

The earliest the Fulton County State Court may hear it would be Aug. 2.

H.B. 481 also grants “personhood” rights to embryos and fetuses —  a provision the ACLU coalition is also challenging in a separate case in federal district court.