Appeals court may wait to rule on Georgia abortion law until Dobbs is decided

Christine Rousselle   By Christine Rousselle for CNA

Pro-life advocates at the 45th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 19, 2018. / Jonah McKeown/CNA

Atlanta, Ga., Sep 28, 2021 / 14:00 pm (CNA).

A federal appeals court is holding off on deciding whether to continue to block a Georgia pro-life law until the Supreme Court makes a decision in the case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments Sept. 24 to consider overturning a permanent injunction blocking the 2019 “Heartbeat Law” from going into effect. Similar to a recently enacted law in Texas, Georgia’s law would prohibit abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat.

Exceptions in the law include situations where a child was conceived in rape or incest, as long as a police report was filed, as well as for cases of risk to the health of the mother or if a medical condition meant the baby would not survive birth.

The law would also grant personhood rights to an unborn child.

Circuit Chief Judge William Pryor said waiting for the Supreme Court to decide the fate of the legality of pre-viability restrictions on abortion would be “the prudent way to proceed.”

While the law being considered in Dobbs bans abortion after the 15th week of a pregnancy, not the sixth, Pryor noted the similarities between the laws and said it was “not every day” that “the Supreme Court [can] do some work for us.”

In July 2020, the District Court for the Northern District of Georgia said the Georgia law is unconstitutional.

The ruling came in a lawsuit against the 2019 law that was filed by abortion providers and an abortion advocacy group.

In his decision, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones wrote that “The Supreme Court has repeatedly and unequivocally held that under no circumstances whatsoever may a state prohibit or ban abortions at any point prior to viability.”

Thus, “The Court is left with no other choice but to declare it unconstitutional,” Jones wrote at the time. Jones was critical of the law, and called it an attempt to “ban or de facto ban abortion.”

Georgia appealed the ruling to the 11th Circuit.

“Viability,” or when a child is able to survive outside of the womb, is considered to be the 24th week of gestation. The most premature baby ever to survive was born at 21 weeks.

Abortion is legal in Georgia until the 20th week of pregnancy.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in Dobbs Dec. 1. It is expected to make a decision on the case in June.

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