Fulton County judge stops enforcement of Georgia’s abortion ban, says law ‘must be reenacted’

(The Center Square) — A Fulton County judge enjoined the state from enforcing its abortion ban lawmakers passed before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade.

Georgia lawmakers passed House Bill 481, the Living Infants Fairness Equality Act, in 2019. The law, commonly called the “Heartbeat Bill,” banned most abortions after about six weeks.

A federal judge initially blocked the law because the U.S. Supreme Court had previously upheld the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade as part of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a federal appeals judge ruled the Georgia law could take effect, prompting a group of pro-abortion doctors and advocates to file a lawsuit in Fulton County.

In his ruling, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney said two sections of the legislation “were plainly unconstitutional when drafted, voted upon, and enacted” and “must be reenacted in our post-Roe world if they are to become the law of Georgia.”

“It did not become the law of Georgia when it was enacted and it is not the law of Georgia now,” McBurney wrote. “Under Dobbs, it may someday become the law of Georgia, but only after our Legislature determines in the sharp glare of public attention that will undoubtedly and properly attend such an important and consequential debate whether the rights of unborn children justify such a restriction on women’s right to bodily autonomy and privacy.

“…Our state legislators are now, under Dobbs, free to move away from a post-viability ban in an effort to strike a different balance between the interests of fetal life and women’s bodily autonomy, should they conclude that that is what is best for Georgians,” McBurney added.

“Today’s ruling places the personal beliefs of a judge over the will of the legislature and people of Georgia,” said Andrew Isenhour, spokesman for Gov. Brian Kemp. “The state has already filed a notice of appeal, and we will continue to fight for the lives of Georgia’s unborn children.”

In a statement, Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said the ruling “recognizes that the legislature’s decision to take away abortion access across our state was in clear violation of the law.”

Kara Richardson, a spokesperson for Attorney General Chris Carr, said the office has “filed a notice of appeal” to the Georgia Supreme Court “and will continue to fulfill our duty to defend the laws of our state in court.”