Hope for unborn babies in Georgia was renewed Tuesday when the state Supreme Court appeared willing to uphold a 2019 law that bans abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable.
According to 11 ALIVE, several of the justices questioned the arguments that lawyer Julia Stone made on behalf of SisterSong and other pro-abortion groups that are challenging the law.
Basically, Stone argued that the pro-life law violates the Georgia Constitution because it was unconstitutional when it passed in 2019 while Roe v. Wade was the precedent.
“For 50 years, the rule was states could not ban abortions before the point of viability,” she told the court, the report continues. “When [state lawmakers] passed HB 481 and sought to ban abortions four months before that point, that had been perfectly clear for 50 years, they directly conflicted with that precedent.”
The law, which pro-abortion groups challenged in 2019, prohibits most abortions once an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detectable, about six weeks of pregnancy. It allows exceptions for cases of rape, incest, fatal fetal diagnosis and situations where the mother’s life is at risk.
When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe in June, the law temporarily went into effect. However, Fulton Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney blocked it again last year. Then, in November, the Georgia Supreme Court temporarily reinstated the law.
The hearing Tuesday will determine the final outcome of the life-saving law and the future of countless unborn babies’ lives.
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Here’s more from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Stone said that just because last year’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturned the nearly 50-year-old Roe ruling, it did not retroactively make the 2019 passage of Georgia’s abortion law legal.
Justices appeared to struggle with Stone’s argument.
“Your theory is that the (2019 abortion law) violated the Georgia Constitution because at the time the (abortion law) was passed, they violated the federal constitution as it was then understood,” Georgia Justice Charlie Bethel said. “But you have a (federal) judicial opinion that said ‘our previous opinions were wrong and were never the law.’”
Georgia Solicitor General Stephen Petrany, who defended the law, said Stone’s argument does not make sense.
“The entire theory of the case from the plaintiffs’ perspective, is the LIFE Act was void in 2019 because of federal judicial decisions, that’s their entire theory,” Petrany told the court. “The notion that Dobbs somehow does not undue that would be incoherent.”
Later, he added: “Nowhere is there even a whisper of the notion that because [laws] simply violated judicial opinions that were later overruled, they were somehow themselves void. There is no authority for this theory anywhere,” according to the news reports.
Justice Verda M. Colvin appeared to agree, asking Stone to explain how her argument makes sense when the U.S. Supreme Court just ruled that there never was a constitutional right to abortion.
“How do we get beyond their statement, regardless of what side of the fence you come on, that it never was the law?” Colvin asked.
Afterward during a press conference, state Sen. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, the lead sponsor of the heartbeat law, expressed optimism that the court will uphold the pro-life legislation.
“This was not just something that was was thrown together,” Setzler said. “And every detail of this bill was crafted in a way that was mindful of practical implementation, [to] balance the basic right to life of a child with the difficult circumstances women find themselves in.”
In 2020, 31,248 unborn babies were aborted in Georgia, according to state health department data. More than 60 percent were aborted after six weeks of pregnancy, so the heartbeat law has the potential to save tens of thousands of unborn babies’ lives every year.
In addition to banning abortions, the law allows parents to claim unborn babies as dependents on their taxes and include the unborn baby in census data. It also allows mothers to collect child support for pregnancy and delivery costs from the father prior to the baby’s birth.
Since the Dobbs ruling, 14 states have strictly limited or banned abortions and more are expected to do so in the coming months.
Guttmacher Institute researchers estimate as many as 26 will protect unborn babies by banning or strictly limiting abortions now that Roe is gone. These laws are expected to save hundreds of thousands of unborn babies from abortion every year.