Local, Politics

Ga. High Court Asks If State Can Be Sued Over Abortion Ban

A years-old lawsuit challenging Georgia’s ban on abortions after 20-weeks went before the state Supreme Court Monday.
A years-old lawsuit challenging Georgia’s ban on abortions after 20-weeks went before the state Supreme Court Monday.
Credit NICK NESMITH / WABE

A years-old lawsuit challenging Georgia’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks went before the state Supreme Court Monday.

But the main question during oral arguments didn’t have much to do with the controversial procedure.

Instead, it focused on “sovereign immunity,” a law that protects state agencies from being sued.

Georgia’s attorney general claimed it prevents the gynecologists, who are challenging the abortion law’s constitutionality, from even bringing the case against the state.

The gynecologists’ counsel Donald Samuel disagreed. He said that citizens have to be able to sue if they believe the state is infringing on their rights.

“All of the protections in the Constitution really – and I don’t mean to be overly dramatic – become meaningless if you can never go to court,” Samuel said.

The state said people could simply take their case to federal court or seek an exemption to the state’s sovereign immunity from Georgia legislators.

In its forthcoming decision, the high court will rule solely on the question of whether sovereign immunity shields the state from the gynecologists’ lawsuit.

If the Supreme Court justices decide it does not, then the case will go back to Fulton County Superior Court. There, a judge may finally consider the abortion ban’s constitutionality.

The gynecologists, along with the American Civil Liberties Union, have been fighting the ban since 2012, when Gov. Nathan Deal signed it into law.

A note of disclosure: Donald Samuel is a relative of a WABE news reporter.