Georgia Supreme Court To Hear Abortion Law Challenge

Jan 23, 2017

A challenge to the state law that prohibits the abortion of a fetus after 20 weeks of pregnancy is scheduled to be heard by the Georgia Supreme Court on Monday.  The hearing will determine whether or not a lower court judge’s decision to dismiss the challenge was justified.

The law was passed by the Georgia General Assembly in 2012. It restricts abortions from being performed five months after conception, except when a fetus has a severe defect or the life and health of the mother is being protected. Cases of rape or incest are not considered exceptions.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the state's governor, attorney general and other officials that challenges the constitutionality of the law on behalf of the obstetricians.

According to the ACLU, the law is a violation of the state’s privacy granted by the state constitution. The organization also argues that the exceptions to the law are very limited. Doctors could potentially serve time in prison despite using their best judgment to perform medical procedures.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams stated that the challenge was barred by the principle of sovereign immunity, which protects the state and state agencies from being sued unless that protection is waived by the General Assembly, and granted the state’s request to dismiss the case in October 2015.

The ACLU said that it was not notified when Adams issued the order and as a result, missed the 30 day deadline to file an appeal. The lawyers representing the obstetricians filed a motion requesting that Adams reissue her order in March 2016. Adams agreed and the ACLU filed an appeal shortly after.