The Georgia Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that the state’s six-week abortion ban should remain in place, refuting a lower court’s argument that the law was unconstitutional, according to court documents.
A group of pro-abortion organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, filed a lawsuit in July 2022 and a trial court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs, saying that the 2019 law was signed prior to the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Center and was, ultimately, unconstitutional, according to NPR. The state’s Supreme Court, however, dismissed the lower court’s decision and said that the previous ruling “rests on a faulty premise” that the Dobbs decision changed the meaning of the Constitution, itself, according to WABE, a local media outlet.
“As the majority opinion explains, ‘the United States Constitution, not the United States Supreme Court, is the source of the Constitution’s meaning; the United States Supreme Court has no power to amend the Constitution through interpretation; and the text of the United States Constitution has not been amended since the LIFE Act was enacted,’” the court wrote. “‘Thus, the United States Constitution means today what it meant when the LIFE Act was enacted in 2019, even if the United States Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Constitution has changed.’ Today’s majority opinion further explains that Georgia courts must follow the U.S. Supreme Court’s most recent pronouncement on the meaning of the U.S. Constitution when determining whether a statutory law violates that Constitution.”
Georgia’s H.B. 481 prohibits abortions after a heartbeat is detected, and includes exceptions for medical emergencies and in the case of rape or incest when a police report was filed, according to Reuters. The law also includes “unborn child” in the definition of “person.”
The law was barred from going into effect during the litigation by a lower court with an injunction, but the state Supreme Court ruled a week later in November 2022 that the law should remain in effect for the duration of the lawsuit. Pro-life groups estimated in April that the state saw a monthly decline of 1,822 abortions since the Dobbs decision.
Justice John J. Ellington wrote in his dissenting opinion that the law was invalid “because its ban on most abortions after embryonic cardiac activity can be detected … would unduly interfere with a woman’s then-protected right under the United States Constitution to terminate a pregnancy before viability.”
“Today’s ruling is not the end of this fight for women’s healthcare,” Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement to WABE. “Be clear, the right to abortion is on the ballot in 2024. Gov. Brian Kemp and the Georgia legislature acted to take away our rights. The Georgia legislature can restore our rights and we must organize to elect a pro-choice legislature.”