Federal appeals court says Heartbeat Law is legal, allows it to take effect immediately

ATLANTA — Most abortions in Georgia are now banned after a fetus’s heartbeat is detected.

A federal appeals court judge ruled Wednesday afternoon that the state’s heartbeat abortion law is allowed to take effect and vacated a stay in place, allowing the law to take effect immediately.

The move comes weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.

Wednesday’s ruling said abortions after about six weeks are allowed in cases of rape and incest, as long as a police report is filed. Abortion is also allowed when a mother’s life is at risk, or if the fetus cannot survive.

Channel 2′s Richard Elliot went to the Georgia State Capitol as soon as the ruling came out and spoke to Gov. Brian Kemp who praised the moved by the court.

“Today’s decision by the 11th circuit affirms our promise to protect life at all stages,” Kemp said.

Channel 2 Action News was there in 2019 when Kemp signed the bill into law. The American Civil Liberties Union challenged it almost immediately and won.

But with the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, the 11th Circuit ruled Wednesday that the law was constitutional and ordered a lower court to reinstate it.


Kemp said he and his family were happy with the ruling and promised the state will be ready when law takes effect.

“We are overjoyed that the court has paved the way for the implementation of Georgia’s Life Act, and as mothers navigate pregnancy, birth, parenthood or alternative options to parenthood, like adoption, Georgia’s public, private and nonprofit sectors stand ready to provide the resources they need to be safe, healthy and informed,” Kemp said.

Democratic state Sen. Emmanuel Jones didn’t know about the ruling until Elliot told him about it.

“I’m completely flabbergasted,” Jones said.

Democrats fought hard against the Heartbeat bill but lost.

Jones said he is now worried about the burden this will put on Georgia women and families.

“I think this is a sad day for women in our great state. Certainly, that bill puts more burden on families at a time when those families can’t afford the burden,” Jones said.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr sent a statement, saying:

“It is the constitutional duty of the Georgia Attorney General to defend the laws of our state. Today, our arguments have prevailed, meaning the Eleventh Circuit has allowed Georgia’s LIFE Act to take effect immediately.”

Several metro Atlanta district attorneys have told Channel 2 Action News that they will not prosecute women and doctors involved with abortion procedures.

District attorneys in DeKalb, Fulton, Gwinnett, Douglas, Clarke and Oconee counties have made similar pledges. Between those six counties, that’s nearly a third of all Georgians who would be exempt.


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