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Federal judge blocks Georgia's controversial abortion ban

Posted at 6:39 AM, Oct 02, 2019

A federal judge on Tuesday blocked Georgia's controversial ban on abortions from going into effect in January.

The law, House Bill 481, is one of the nation's most restrictive measures, outlawing the procedure as early as six weeks into pregnancy, when a fetal heartbeat is detected. That can come before many women know they're pregnant. It includes some exceptions, including if the pregnancy risks the life of the mother or poses substantial and irreversible physical harm.

"By banning pre-viability abortions, H.B. 481 violates the constitutional right to privacy, which, in turn, inflicts per se irreparable harm on Plaintiffs," US District Judge Steve Jones wrote in his opinion.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights sued state officials in June, calling for a judge to block the law that Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed in May .

Candice Brody, Kemp's communications director, told CNN that the office was reviewing the decision.

"Despite today's outcome, we remain confident in our position," she said.

In the ruling, Jones cited Supreme Court abortion precedents including Roe v. Wade, which legalized pre-viability abortion nationwide, and Casey v. Planned Parenthood, which deemed laws placing an "undue burden" on abortion seekers unconstitutional.

"The Supreme Court has repeatedly and unequivocally held that a State may not ban abortion prior to viability," he wrote, adding that "By prohibiting abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, months before the point of viability, Section 4 of H.B. 481 does exactly that."

Jones also noted that the plaintiffs "established a substantial likelihood of success on the merits" of their arguments.

Staci Fox, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Southeast, praised the ruling in a statement as "a victory for the people of Georgia and the entire nation."

"To Governor Kemp, we promised to see you in court, and we did," she added. "But most importantly, to our patients, we promised to protect access to safe, legal abortion and together we have."

"This case has always been about one thing: letting her decide," Sean Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement. "Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but every woman is entitled to her own decision."

Democratic Georgia Senate candidate Jon Ossoff weighed in on the ruling, saying that "Georgia GOP's has insisted on passing this extreme, unconstitutional abortion ban."

"Roe v. Wade is and will remain the law of the land!" he tweeted .