Georgia Judge Temporarily Blocks Midterm Abortion Limits

A Georgia judge granted a preliminary injunction in response to a request by three Georgia doctors seeking an order blocking enforcement of laws limiting availability of midterm abortions to emergencies and instances where a pregnancy has been deemed “medically futile.”

Judge Doris L. Downs in Atlanta last week granted the injunction, which stops the measure from taking effect Jan. 1. Lawyers from the American Civil Liberties Union presented the doctors’ arguments before the judge on Dec. 20, saying the law violates the state constitution.

“It is unconstitutional on its face,” ACLU attorney Alexa Kolbi-Molinas told the judge at the hearing. “It is undisputed that plaintiffs will suffer irreparable harm.”

The measures are part of an act signed into law May 1 by first-term Republican Governor Nathan Deal, who said then that the legislation gave additional protection to “unborn babies.”

“The act, which bans nearly all pre-viability abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization, infringes on the fundamental right of a woman to decide whether and when to bear a child,” and breaches rights enshrined in Georgia’s Constitution, the ACLU argued in a Nov. 30 complaint.

Federal Right

“This is a case about abortion,” the state said in opposition papers filed Dec. 13. “It is not, however, a case about the federal right to an abortion recognized by the United States Supreme Court in decisions binding on all courts in this state.”

The doctors’ lawyers are asking the court to find a right to abortion in the state’s constitution that is separate and distinct from that found in the federal document, Attorney General Sam Olens argued in the filing.

“A careful review of the text and history of the Georgia Constitution will reveal that such a right does not exist,” the attorney general said.

The case is Lathrop v. Deal, 2012-cv-224423, Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia (Atlanta).

To contact the reporter on this story: David Beasley in New York at dbeasley3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net

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