Georgia Judge Blocks Heartbeat Law Banning Abortions on Babies With Beating Hearts

State   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Nov 15, 2022   |   2:35PM   |   Washington, DC

A Georgia judge has issued a ruling today partially blocking the Georgia law that bans abortions on unborn babies at 6 weeks, when their heartbeat can first be detected on a sonogram.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney sided with abortion advocates who falsely claimed the law violates the Georgia Constitution’s right to privacy and liberty by “forcing pregnancy and childbirth upon countless Georgians.” The right to privacy regards government monitoring of citizens and has nothing to do with killing babies in abortions and the ban does not force anyone to give birth given the fact that any resident can practice abstinence or use contraception to prevent pregnancy.

The abortion ban had been in effect since July after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade but the ruling today blocks the law from being enforced.

Judge McBurney issued his decision by claiming that, because the Supreme Court had not yet issued its Dobbs decision, the law was unconstitutional when it was adopted — making it unconstitutional now even though the Supreme Court’s ruling very clearly gives states the latitude to ban abortion.

McBurney said when the law was enacted, “everywhere in America, including Georgia, it was unequivocally unconstitutional for governments — federal, state, or local — to ban abortions before viability.”

He ruled that two sections of the law never actually became law because they were unconstitutional at the time they were signed into law and, as such, ruled that Georgia cannot enforce those sections of the law. Abortions will now temporarily be legal in Georgia until 22 weeks.

He said the state’s law “did not become the law of Georgia when it was enacted and it is not the law of Georgia now.”

The ruling means that the sections of the law recognizing personhood for preborn babies, providing a dependent tax exemption for preborn babies, allowing women to seek child support for a preborn baby, and requiring an abortion doctor to tell a pregnant woman that her baby has a heartbeat prior to abortion all remain in effect.

Attorneys for Georgia argued that Roe is no longer the controlling decision and the abortion ban must be viewed in light of the Dobbs ruling. Pro-life Attorney General Chris Carr, who won a resounding statewide re-election last Tuesday over his pro-abortion opponent, has already appealed this decision to the Georgia Appeals Court.

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Georgia Life Alliance director Elizabeth Edmonds said the ruling is a victory of sorts for personhood for unborn babies.

“The Judge’s decision today is actually a MASSIVE victory for the pro-life cause. Because he refused to enjoin the critical provisions of our law that recognize PERSONHOOD for babies in the womb,” she told LifeNews. “Not only does this affirm the legal foundation for the Heartbeat Bill, it means that the personhood portions of the law will fall outside the scope of appeal. Georgia remains the first and only state to grant personhood status to babies at the moment of fertilization.”

She added: “Today’s ruling only enjoins the abortion restriction portions of the law on technicality – that they were signed into law while Roe was still in effect. This is a massive affirmation to the legal soundness of Georgia’s Heartbeat Bill and the tireless efforts of our statewide coalition who lobbied the bill, our courageous pro-life lawmakers, and Governor Kemp.”

“This minor setback is only temporary, and we have seen the monumental impact the Heartbeat Bill has already had in Georgia – with abortions plummeting 57% in Georgia this summer. We are well on our way to seeing abortion abolished entirely within our borders,” Edmonds added. “Continue to pray for the legal team defending the Heartbeat Bill in court, for the Appellate Judges who will inevitably hear this case next, the pregnancy help centers who will continue serving women in need around our state, and for the thousands of women who will continue to be victimized by the profit-hungry abortion industry until we see this law enacted.”

Also, they aruged Georgia’s privacy protections do not extend to abortion because it affects another “human life.”

“There is a third party involved,” Georgia Solicitor General Stephen Petrany told McBurney.

The law had bene enforced thanks to a federal court ruling from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge McBurney’s ruling clearly goes agaisnt what the federal court decided.

In a 16-page decision, U.S. Circuit Judge William Pryor wrote on behalf of the panel that preserving unborn life “at all stages of development” is “categorically a legitimate state interest.”

“Georgia’s prohibition on abortions after detectable human heartbeat is rational. ‘[R]espect for and preservation of prenatal life at all stages of development’ is a legitimate interest. The Georgia Legislature’s findings acknowledge a state interest in “providing full legal recognition to an unborn child.’ That ‘legitimate interest[] provide[s] a rational basis for’ and ‘justif[ies]’ the Act,” wrote Pryor, a George W. Bush appointee, quoting the LIFE Act and the Dobbs decision. .

According to the Georgia Life Alliance, once the 11th Circuit’s handed down its favorable ruling “SisterSong, along with Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers and supportive groups, filed a challenge to the law at the State level claiming that it violates Georgia’s State Constitution. Along with that challenge; they requested that the Court not allow the Heartbeat Bill to remain in effect while the case proceeded. The Judge denied their request for a temporary restraining order.”

The law includes exceptions for rape and incest, as long as a police report is filed, and allows for later abortions when the mother’s life is at risk or a serious medical condition renders the baby not viable.

Georgia’s new law is different from other states’ “heartbeat” statutes because it includes so-called personhood provisions, where rights are extended to an embryo once fetal cardiac activity can be detected. Parents would be able to claim a fetus, once a heartbeat is detected, on their state income taxes as a dependent, and the measure would also require state officials to count an unborn child toward Georgia’s population. Mothers can also file for child support once cardiac activity is detected.

As LifeNews reported, the Supreme Court has overturned Roe v. Wade, with a 6-3 majority ruling in the Dobbs case that “The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion” — allowing states to ban abortions and protect unborn babies. The high court also ruled 6-3 uphold the Mississippi 15-week abortion ban so states can further limit abortions and to get rid of the false viability standard.

Chief Justice John Roberts technically voted for the judgment but, in his concurring opinion, disagreed with the reasoning and said he wanted to keep abortions legal but with a new standard.

“Abortion presents a profound moral question. The Constitution does not prohibit the citizens of each State from regulating or prohibiting abortion. Roe and Casey arrogated that authority. We now overrule those decisions and return that authority to the people and their elected representatives,” Alito wrote.

“Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences,” Alito wrote. “And far from bringing about a national settlement of the abortion issue, Roe and Casey have enflamed debate and deepened division.”

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer authored a joint dissent condemning the decision as enabling states to enact “draconian” restrictions on women.

Polls show Americans are pro-life on abortion and a new national poll shows 75% of Americans essentially agree with the Supreme Court overturning Roe.

Despite false reports that abortion bans would prevent doctors from treating pregnant women for miscarriages or ectopic pregnancies, pro-life doctors confirm that is not the case. Some 35 states have laws making it clear that miscarriage is not abortion and every state with an abortion ban allows treatment for both.