Impacts of Georgia's abortion restrictions are likely to ripple across the Southeast

After a court ruling, most abortions in Georgia is banned at six weeks gestation and later. (Photo courtesy Feminist Women's Health Center)

Georgia’s status as a regional destination for abortion access in the Southeast is likely to change now that the state’s restrictive law banning most abortions after around six weeks — before many people know they’re pregnant — is in effect.

On Wednesday, a federal court in Atlanta enacted the 2019 law. A lower court had previously blocked it on constitutional grounds. Still, when the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals revisited the case after the Supreme Court recently overturned Roe v. Wade protections, the 11th Circuit ruled that Georgia’s law could take effect.

So, overnight, Georgia has become one of the states with the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. It outlaws abortion once electrical activity is detected in the womb.

Providers of abortion in the state say they’ll continue to treat patients within the confines of the newly enacted restrictions on the procedure.

Feminist Women’s Health Center Director Kwajelyn Jackson says patients seeking an abortion must meet the six-week cutoff, verified with an ultrasound exam.

“That will be the measure of whether or not someone will be able to have an abortion or not,” she said.

“We will continue to provide abortion care up to six weeks. We will continue to provide miscarriage management where there is no cardiac activity detected. We will continue to support patients, and we believe we’ll be able to continue to do that without closing our doors, laying off staff, or suspending our programming,” she added.

The map reflects state abortion policies in effect as of July 20, 2022. / Guttmacher Institute.
The map reflects state abortion policies in effect as of July 20, 2022. (Guttmacher Institute)

The state’s ban after six weeks means people seeking an elective abortion after that cutoff will be forced to travel long distances for the procedure. So will the thousands of patients from other even more restrictive nearby states who might have traveled to Georgia for treatment.

Only Florida and North Carolina in the Southeast still offer abortions after six weeks from conception. The procedure is permitted up to fetal viability in North Carolina at around 24 weeks. And Florida allows it up to 15 weeks.

Georgia’s abortion law provides some exceptions, including for miscarriage and ectopic pregnancy. 

The law also grants so-called “personhood” rights to embryos and fetuses at any stage of development.