Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Georgia's Heartbeat Abortion Ban Is Held Invalid

In Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective v. State of Georgia, (GA Super. Ct., Nov. 15, 2022), a Georgia state trial court enjoined enforcement of two sections of Georgia's Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act which was enacted in 2019.  The court invoked Georgia's "Void Ab Initio" doctrine. Quoting a Georgia Supreme Court case decided in 1900, the court said:

The time with reference to which the constitutionality of an act of the general assembly is to be determined is the date of its passage, and, if it is unconstitutional, then it is forever void.

Applying this, the court concluded that Section 4 which bans most abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, and Section 11 which requires physicians to file a justification for any abortions where a fetal heartbeat was detected, both were void when enacted and never became the law of Georgia.  However, Section 10 which requires doctors to determine the presence of a human heartbeat before performing an abortion is valid since even before the Dobbs decision, it could be justified as providing the mother with more information about the state of her pregnancy. The court also refused to dismiss a challenge to a provision of the law that authorizes district attorneys to access medical records relating to abortions. ACLU of Georgia issued a press release announcing the decision.