The Georgia Supreme Court on Wednesday reinstated the state's ban on abortions after roughly six weeks of pregnancy, abruptly ending access to later abortions that had resumed days earlier. In a one-page order, the justices put a lower court ruling overturning the ban on hold while they consider an appeal, per the AP. Doctors who had resumed providing abortions after six weeks had to immediately stop. Abortion advocates blasted the order, saying it will traumatize women who must now arrange travel to other states for an abortion or keep their pregnancies. Women waiting for abortions at providers' offices were turned away, according to the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, which represents abortion providers challenging the ban.
"This legal ping pong is causing chaos for medical providers trying to do their jobs and for patients who are now left frantically searching for the abortion services they need," said Alice Wang, an attorney with the Center for Reproductive Rights, which also represents plaintiffs in the case. The state attorney general’s office in a court filing said "untold numbers of unborn children" would "suffer the permanent consequences" if the state Supreme Court did not issue a stay and halt the Nov. 15 decision by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney. McBurney ruled the abortion ban was invalid because when it was signed into law in 2019, US Supreme Court precedent that was established by Roe v. Wade and another ruling had allowed abortion well past six weeks.
The decision immediately prohibited enforcement of the abortion ban statewide. The state appealed and asked the Georgia Supreme Court to put the decision on hold while the appeal moved forward. Georgia’s ban first took effect in July, after the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. It prohibits most abortions once a "detectable human heartbeat" is present. Cardiac activity can be detected by ultrasound in cells within an embryo that will eventually become the heart around six weeks into a pregnancy, before many people know they are pregnant. McBurney wrote the timing made the law immediately invalid and to enact the law, the state Legislature would have to pass it again. The state attorney general's office blasted McBurney's reasoning as having "no basis in law, precedent, or common sense." (Read more Georgia stories.)