(Reuters) – Abortion rights groups including Planned Parenthood will challenge Georgia’s ban on most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy at a trial set to begin Monday.
At the non-jury trial before Judge Robert McBurney of the Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta, scheduled to last two days, the groups – which also include Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and the Center for Reproductive Rights – are expected to argue that the law violates Georgians’ fundamental rights to liberty and privacy under the state constitution.
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the law to take effect in July, after the U.S. Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturned its landmark 1973 precedent Roe v. Wade guaranteeing abortion rights nationwide.
The law was passed in 2019 but had been blocked because of Roe. It includes exceptions for medical emergencies and for cases of rape or incest where a police report was filed.
“The impacts have been devastating, especially for Black women in Georgia, who are over two times more likely than white women to die of pregnancy-related causes and face structural racism in our health care system,” the plaintiffs said in a joint statement Friday. “Georgia’s state constitution clearly prohibits this extreme political interference with people’s bodies, health, and lives.”
The office of Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said in a statement that it would continue to defend the state’s laws in court.
McBurney in August denied the plaintiffs’ request for a preliminary order blocking the law while the legal challenge was pending. He said he lacked the authority under state law to issue such an order but stressed that he was not ruling on the merits of the case.
“The question of whether it is constitutional for the state to force a woman to carry to term a six-week-old embryo against her wishes, even in the face of serious medical risk, remains to be answered,” he wrote at the time.
Abortion rights advocates have filed more than a dozen legal challenges against new abortion bans adopted by Republican-led states around the country since Dobbs, so far with mixed results. This week’s proceeding in Georgia marks the first full trial on the merits in such a case.
The case is Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, Superior Court of Fulton County, No. 2022CV367796.
For plaintiffs: Julia Stone of Caplan Cobb, Julia Kaye of the ACLU, Tiana Mykkeltvedt of Bondurant Mixson & Elmore and others
For the state: Solicitor General Stephen Petrany
Court allows Georgia ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban to take effect
U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, ends constitutional right to abortion
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