Georgia’s six-week abortion ban and fetal personhood bill has gone into effect as of Wednesday, July 20, after an unusual ruling issued by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals this afternoon. Instead of giving a 28-day grace period, as expected, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals issued an immediate stay of the lower court’s injunction against the bill. No one asked the court to do this; it acted on its own accord. Considering the opinion’s author, Chief Judge William Pryor, called the plaintiffs and appellees “abortionists” at least 21 times in the opinion, it’s not hard to believe.
Pro-abortion legal organizations fighting the bill released a joint statement on Wednesday. “This is a highly unorthodox action that will immediately push essential abortion care out of reach for patients beyond the earliest stages of pregnancy. Across the state, providers are now being forced to turn away patients who thought they would be able to access abortion, immediately changing the course of their lives and futures. This is horrific. We’ll continue doing everything in our power to fight for abortion access in Georgia in the face of these harmful attacks on people’s ability to control if and when to have a child,” American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Southeast, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America said in a statement.
The bill also codifies fetal personhood into Georgia state law. Under this law, an embryo or fetus at any stage of development is considered a person. While the plaintiffs are allowed to return to the district court level to raise new challenges against the fetal personhood statute, this ruling is still a major coup for anti-abortion legislators and advocates.
The law encourages patients to rat out their own abortion providers. From the legislation: “Any woman upon whom an abortion is performed in violation of this Code section may recover in a civil action from the person who engaged in such violation all damages available to her under Georgia law for any torts.”
The bill specifically allows abortion for ectopic pregnancies but says those are not really abortions. (They are.)
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The bill was originally signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in May 2019. A federal district court blocked the law from going into effect in July 2020, saying it was unconstitutional. Wednesday’s ruling is in direct response to the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health decision last month that overturned Roe v. Wade and the constitutional right to abortion.
Georgia becomes the latest southern state to lose access to virtually all abortions in its borders. Good news about abortion bans being blocked from taking effect—like what happened this week in West Virginia—is becoming more and more unlikely, it seems.