Abortion advocates say ‘legal ping-pong’ is causing mayhem in the US state as Georgia’s Supreme Court allows the ban to be reinstated.
The Supreme Court in the US state of Georgia state ban on abortions at about six weeks gestation, abruptly ending access that had resumed days earlier.
In a one-page order on Wednesday, judges put a lower court ruling overturning the ban on hold while they consider an appeal. Doctors who started abortions after six weeks had to stop immediately.
Abortion advocates rejected the order, saying it will traumatize women who must now travel to other states for an abortion or keep their pregnancies. According to the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, which represents abortion providers challenging the ban, women waiting for an abortion were denied access to the providers.
“It is outrageous that this extreme law is back in force just days after it was rightly blocked,” said Alice Wang, a lawyer at the Center for Reproductive Rights, which also represents the plaintiffs in the case.
“This legal ping pong is causing chaos for medical providers trying to do their jobs and for patients who are now frantically searching for the abortion services They need.”
The attorney general’s office said in a lawsuit that “untold numbers of unborn children” would “suffer the lasting consequences” if the Supreme Court did not issue a stay and overturn the Nov. 15 decision by Fulton County Supreme Court Justice Robert McBurney.
McBurney had ruled that the state’s abortion ban was invalid because, when it was signed into law in 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court precedent set by Roe against Wade and another ruling had allowed abortion over six weeks ago.
The decision immediately banned enforcement of the abortion ban statewide. The state appealed, asking the Supreme Court of Georgia to stay the decision while the appeal continued.
Although abortions had resumed in the past six weeks, some providers said they were proceeding with caution over concerns that the ban could be quickly reinstated.
Georgia’s ban first took effect in July, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling overturned Roe v Wade. It bans most abortions once a “detectable human heartbeat” is present.
Heart activity can be detected by ultrasound in the cells of an embryo, which will eventually become the heart, at about six weeks of gestation. That means most abortions in Georgia are actually banned before many people even know they’re pregnant.
The measure was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Republican Governor Brian Kemp in 2019.
In his statement, McBurney said the timing — before the The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade – immediately invalidated the law. Legislators overstep their authority when they enact laws that violate a constitutional right declared by the judiciary. To enact the law, the state legislature would have to re-enact it, he wrote.
The Attorney General’s office in an application to the Georgia Supreme Court rejected McBurney’s reasoning because it had “no basis in law, precedent or common sense.”
Plaintiffs’ lawyers defended it in a response, warning of “irreparable harm” to women if it were put on hold. They also asked the Supreme Court for 24 hours’ notice before issuing a stay to “avoid the potential chaos” of resuming the ban while women waited for an abortion or were in the process of purchasing one.
The state Supreme Court did not hold a hearing before issuing its order, and plaintiffs’ lawyers said it denied their request with 24 hours’ notice.
According to the court’s order, seven of the nine judges agreed with the decision. It said one was disqualified and another did not compete.