A federal appeals court overturned a ruling by a lower court to allow Georgia’s heartbeat law to go into effect immediately. Normally, the law would not go into effect for weeks after the ruling but the court issued a second order allowing the law to go into effect immediately.

The law is one that is from 2019. It had been banned from taking effect until now. It is one that states that abortions are not allowed once a heartbeat is detected. This can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. There are exceptions for rape and incest, as long as a police report is filed, and it allows for abortion later into the pregnancy if the mother’s life is at risk. An abortion is also allowed if a serious medical condition renders the fetus unviable. That hardly makes this an extreme law. The federal appeals court was expected to rule in favor of the state law after the Supreme Court’s ruling on Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health came down. There is no constitutional right to abortion.

A three-judge panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Mississippi case that overturned Roe v. Wade allows the law to take effect. Circuit Court Chief Judge William Pryor wrote that the ruling in that case “makes clear no right to abortion exists under the Constitution, so Georgia may prohibit them.”

The appeals court also rejected arguments that a provision of the law that changes the definition of “natural person” is unconstitutionally vague. The “personhood” provision gives a fetus the same legal rights as people have after birth.

At least one clinic had already closed in Savannah after the Supreme Court’s ruling. The National Abortion Federation (!) listed 10 clinics that were providing surgical abortions before the ruling in Georgia. The ACLU of Georgia sued to challenge the law on behalf of abortion providers and an advocacy group. The ACLU says it “will continue to fight for abortion rights for the women of Georgia with all of the tools at our disposal.” Several district attorneys in the Atlanta area say they won’t prosecute women and doctors involved in abortions. The district attorneys in DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Douglas, Clarke and Oconee counties also made the same pledge. That means about a third of Georgians will be exempt from the ruling. Enforcement of the law is something the state will have to deal with in these counties.

The Supreme Court returned the subject of abortion to the states. The only way to take it out of the hands of the states is for Congress to codify Roe v Wade. That didn’t happen throughout the fifty years Roe v Wade was federal law and it’s not likely to happen now. Republicans won’t vote for it and Democrats are trying to push the most extreme abortion law at the federal level, which turns off some moderate Democrats.

The law that Governor Kemp signed in 2019 is called the Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act, or LIFE Act. Abortion is a hot button issue in Georgia right now as it affects the gubernatorial race. Both Kemp and his Democrat opponent Stacey Abrams are using it as a wedge issue to garner attention from voters and encourage them to get out and vote in November. Governor Kemp emphasizes the whole life agenda of women, especially poor women. He supports extending the Medicaid health insurance program to cover poor mothers for a full year after birth.

“Since taking office in 2019, our family has committed to serving Georgia in a way that cherishes and values each and every human being, and today’s decision by the 11th Circuit affirms our promise to protect life at all stages,” Kemp said Wednesday.

Stacey Abrams delivered a statement full of the usual extreme rhetoric against Kemp and Republicans for which she is known.

Abrams said “women are now second-class citizens” and promised to fight to repeal the law if elected. With a legislature even she acknowledges is likely to remain in Republican hands, that could be difficult.

“Today, Kemp achieved his goal: to endanger women, strip away our right to choose, and deny our ability to determine what is best for our bodies,” Abrams said. “In a state where pregnancy is too often fatal, he is proud of denying women the right to make medical decisions for themselves.”

Judge Pryor was clear in his opinion. He used the same word that Justice Alito used in his opinion – abortionist – in reference to those who challenged the law.

Throughout the 16-page opinion, Pryor used the term “abortionist” to refer to those who challenged the law. His predecessor as 11th Circuit chief judge, now-Senior Judge Ed Carnes, noted in a 2018 opinion in an Alabama abortion case that some find the term pejorative. He also noted some consider the terms “physicians” and “doctors” inappropriate for people who perform abortions. As a result, he chose to “take a middle course and use the term ‘practitioner,’ except where one of the other terms appears in a quotation,” he wrote.

Some individual county commissions are taking matters into their own hands by using the power of the purse strings.

The Athens-Clarke commission is set to vote on Aug. 2 for a resolution to protect reproductive freedom and abortion access in Athens. This resolution has not yet been voted on by the commission, and as such, it is not representative of individual commission members.

This resolution would oppose the use of any public funds to record and or investigate reports of abortion care and would commit to ensuring that abortion care is included in any health insurance coverages made available to the local government’s employees.

The Athens mayor called the opinion from the 11th Circuit “expected.”

“It is disappointing, but expected in the wake of the Dobbs decision,” he said. “I hope the Biden administration makes every effort to maintain the nationwide availability of approved medication, such as the morning-after pill and mifepristone/misoprostol.”

The District Attorney for the Athens’ area had previously announced that she would not prosecute women seeking reproductive health care. After the SCOTUS decision that overturned Roe v. Wade was first announced, Gonzalez declared that not only would she not prosecute women, but she would not prosecute doctors providing those women with care.

Athens is home to the University of Georgia, a liberal spot in Georgia. Athens Area Democratic Socialists of America has been active organizing abortion rallies since the leak of Alito’s draft opinion was reported. Their efforts have continued since the Supreme Court handed down its ruling on Dobbs.

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