Just days before Georgians return to the ballot box, the Georgia Supreme Court ordered the reinstatement of a heartbeat abortion law.
House Bill 481, also known as Georgia’s LIFE Act, was passed in 2019 and subsequently ruled unconstitutional by the state’s district court. Following the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, the verdict was reversed by the Eleventh Circuit, and the bill went into effect in July.
The law restricts abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around the sixth week of pregnancy.
The restriction was challenged in court by a lawsuit that is currently making its way through the Georgia courts.
Put forward by abortion providers and supporters, the lawsuit seeks to strike down the ban, saying that the state’s abortion restrictions violate the state-protected constitutional right to privacy.
That law was blocked by a lower court just two weeks ago when Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney ruled that the ban was “unconstitutional.”
McBurney’s ruling allowed abortions up until the 20th week of pregnancy to resume, but the Georgia Attorney General’s Office appealed the lower court’s decision, resulting in the Georgia Supreme Court reinstating the ban.
The Attorney General’s Office stated that unless the state Supreme Court ordered a stay on the order while the appeal was being considered, “untold numbers of unborn children” would “suffer the permanent consequences.”
While abortion was one of the hottest topics of the midterm elections, it remains unclear how, and if, the abortion battle currently underway in Georgia will affect the Senate runoff race between Democrat incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican upstart Herschel Walker.
In a poll conducted by SurveyUSA and 11Alive News in the days before the midterm election, only 10 percent of Georgia voters said that abortion was the most important issue going into voting. Both inflation and the economy placed above abortion.
The issue has haunted Walker’s staunchly pro-life campaign after allegations that he pressured a former girlfriend to obtain an abortion in 2009. Walker has maintained that those allegations are false, but there is little doubt that abortion will be on the minds of many Georgia voters as they head to the polling centers.