A federal judge has temporarily blocked Georgia’s punitive law banning abortion after six weeks, following an exhaustive effort by civil rights and reproductive health organizations to challenge the bill.
According to Buzzfeed News, U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ruled on Tuesday that the law, which was set to go into effect on January 1, “violates the constitutional right to privacy,” and would cause “irreparable harm,” granting the opposing groups a preliminary injunction while they continue to fight the bill in higher court.
Georgia’s bill, which was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in May, was one of several highly restrictive so-called “fetal heartbeat” abortion laws passed in the United States this year. Though it is predicated on the notion that a fetus’s life begins at around six weeks, when a heartbeat can first be detected on an ultrasound, it severely limits abortion access, as many women do not know they are pregnant that early, and the few who do would have immense difficulty scheduling an appointment for an abortion within that timeframe.
Georgia’s law also defined a fetus as a “natural person,” and lawyers for the state claimed the law was a restriction, not a ban, whose “precise contours” were undefined. Jones negated that defense, according to the Washington Post. “What is clearly defined, however,” he wrote, “is that under no circumstances whatsoever may a State prohibit or ban abortions at any point prior to viability, no matter what interests the State asserts to support it.” And exceptions for rape and incest made in the law “do not save it from being an otherwise unconstitutional pre-viability abortion ban,” Jones argued.