Georgia's new state law that effectively bans abortions around six weeks into pregnancy made its first appearance in federal court Monday.
The American Civil Liberties Union and several reproductive rights groups opposing HB 481 asked U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones for a temporary injunction on the law.
If an injunction is granted, it would block the law from taking effect on Jan. 1, 2020 until the larger case, SisterSong vs. Kemp, is decided. HB 481, also known as the Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act, redefines personhood to include an "unborn child" and would prevent doctors from performing most abortions once fetal heartbeat activity is detected.
Talcott Camp argued the case for the plaintiffs and said the law is vague and that other parts of it, such as tax exemptions, reporting child abuse and tort recovery, could not stand on their own merit.
The state's lawyers defended the bill, saying they have a strong interest in protecting the lives of unborn persons.
Sean Young, the ACLU’s legal director, said precedence is on their side.
"While we cannot predict today when or how the court will rule, we can say that every federal court to have heard a challenge on such a ban has struck it down,” Young said after arguments were heard in the case.
One plaintiff listed in the case versus Gov. Brian Kemp is SisterSong, a reproductive rights organization.
Director Monica Simpson also spoke after the case was heard.
“What we are clear about is Georgians did not ask for this,” Simpson said. “What Georgians have asked for is expanded access. What Georgians have asked for is to make sure they can live in a state where their bodies and their decisions are not being controlled by the state.”
Simpson, along with representatives from Planned Parenthood Southeast and the Feminist Women’s Health Center, stressed that their facilities would remain open and continue to provide service until a ruling is made.
Jones didn't offer a timeline on when he may issue a ruling, other than saying he would as soon as possible. He also acknowledged he probably wouldn’t be the last judge to make a ruling on this case.
The larger SisterSong v. Kemp trial has not yet started.