ACLU challenges Georgia “fetal pain” abortion law


ACLU challenges Georgia “fetal pain” abortion law

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

The Georgia branch of the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit Friday to block the state’s stricter abortion law from taking effect Jan. 1.

The law prohibits abortions after 20 weeks with exceptions for specific threats to the mother’s health. But the lawsuit contends the exceptions are narrow and “doctors treating women in accordance to the best medical judgment” could face prison.

Anti-abortion forces welcomed the lawsuit because they said it will help their efforts to reverse the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision that made abortion legal across the land.

“We would welcome a (court) challenge simply because this provides the opportunity to place additional restrictions on abortion. It would be a challenge to Roe v. Wade,” said Dan Becker, president of Georgia Right to Life.

The law, passed on the final day of last year’s legislative session, includes a few exceptions for an abortion past 20 weeks — the mother could die, she would suffer an “irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function” or the fetus has a congenital or chromosomal anomaly that means almost certain death after birth.

Debbie Seagraves, executive director of ACLU Georgia, said the law was being challenged as a violation of the state’s privacy protections spelled out in the Georgia Constitution.

“It’s unconstitutional on its face,” Seagraves said. “It sets a pre-viability date that’s an arbitrary date. There’s no reason for it. It requires a doctor to make a judgment call that may or may not be in the best interest of their patient.”

Georgia’s law has language with “fetal pain” restrictions that are also in statutes in six other states — Nebraska, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma and Alabama. A seventh state, North Carolina, restricts abortion at 20 weeks.

Backers of Georgia’s law said a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, therefore the state has an interest in protecting it.

None of the laws in the other states has been successfully challenged in the courts.


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