ACLU Says It Sues Georgia Over Law Limiting Abortions

A court challenge to a Georgia law limiting a woman’s right to obtain an abortion after the 20th week of pregnancy was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of three doctors, the organization said.

The group seeks a state court order blocking enforcement of, and invalidating, the law which it says unconstitutionally restricts abortion rights. The ACLU provided a copy of the complaint, which couldn’t be immediately confirmed in state court records in Atlanta.

“The law criminalizes virtually all abortions starting at 20 weeks of pregnancy, and contains only the narrowest exception for medical emergencies,” the New York-based organization said in a statement.

First-term Republican Governor Nathan Deal signed the measure into law on May 1, saying it gave additional protection to “unborn babies.”

“This legislation provides humane protection to innocents capable of feeling pain, while making an important exception for in the case of medically futile pregnancies,” he said in a statement issued that day.

Deal is named in his government capacity as a defendant in the case, as is state Attorney General Sam Olens.

Lauren Kane, a spokeswoman for Olens, didn’t immediately reply to a voice-mail message after regular business hours seeking comment on the lawsuit.

‘Medical Emergency’

The law, which the ACLU said is set to take effect Jan. 1, makes it illegal to provide an abortion later than the “probable” 20th week of gestation unless the pregnancy is diagnosed as medically futile or if the woman is in a medical emergency.

“Medical emergency” is defined in the law as “any condition which, in reasonable medical judgment, so complicates the medical condition of a pregnant female as to necessitate the immediate abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death,” or for which a delay creates serious risk of irreversible impairment of a bodily function for the woman or death of the fetus.

The legislation would force a woman with a high-risk pregnancy to wait until her condition had deteriorated to the emergency point before she would be eligible for an abortion, placing her in danger, the ACLU said in its statement.

The law violates Georgia women’s rights to privacy, equal protection and due process under the state’s Constitution, according to the group’s complaint.

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

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