Opponents of stringent Georgia abortion law ask court to block it during legal challenge

The law bans abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant, and is set to take effect Jan. 1.
Demonstrators Protest Georgia's Heartbeat Bill
Demonstrators hold signs while marching during a protest against Georgia's "heartbeat" abortion bill in Atlanta on May 25, 2019.Elijah Nouvelage / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

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By Elizabeth Chuck

Opponents of a Georgia law that bans abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy have asked a judge to prevent the law from going into effect while they challenge it in court.

The legislation, which is among the nation's strictest abortion law and bans abortion before many women even know they are pregnant, is set to start being enforced on Jan. 1, 2020.

Last month, the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a federal lawsuit in Atlanta on behalf of Georgia abortion providers and reproductive rights advocates, calling the law unconstitutional.

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On Tuesday, the organizations filed a brief asking the court to block the ban while the case makes it way through court, reaffirming their stance that the ban is in violation of the 1973 Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision that federally legalized abortion.

"It is an affront to the dignity and health of Georgians," the plaintiffs wrote in their motion for preliminary injunctive relief, adding that the law would disproportionately affect health outcomes of low-income and rural Georgians, as well as women of color, particularly in a state that already suffers from one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the country.

The legislation, HB 481, would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. Currently, women in Georgia can get an abortion in the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy.

Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp acknowledged when he signed the so-called heartbeat bill into law in May that it was likely to face a legal challenge.

HB 481 makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest, if a police report is filed by the woman first, and in cases where the life of the mother is endangered. It would also allow an abortion if a fetus is deemed unviable because of a medical condition.

The Georgia legislation is one of a slew of recent anti-abortion bills passed across the country, including a near-total ban on abortions in Alabama. The ACLU and other organizations are suing to block the bans, which they say are unconstitutional under Roe v. Wade.

So far, none of the bans have taken effect, with some already having been blocked, according to the Associated Press.