Judge rules police can't ban buttons protesting 'heartbeat bill'

HB 481 proposes to make abortion illegal once a doctor can hear a heartbeat in the fetus.

ATLANTA — A judge ruled Thursday that Capitol police can't ask protestors to remove controversial buttons protesting a proposed bill banning abortion in Georgia.

Last week, police asked two women to remove the buttons, which had curse words and a Planned Parenthood logo on them, as they were protesting the "heartbeat bill," a controversial measure which would ban abortion for most pregnant women past six weeks.

HB 481 proposes to make abortion illegal once a doctor can hear a heartbeat in the fetus.

Content Continues Below

The ACLU filed the suit on behalf of the protesters last week.

Channel 2's Rikki Klaus was at the Capitol on Thursday morning, where last week, Jennifer Hickey was one of the protesters who pinned one of the buttons on her clothes to express her opposition to the bill.

"For me, it's sort of the ultimate affront to have legislation, primarily by males, telling me what I can and cannot do with my body," Hickey said about why she is protesting HB 481.

Hickey said Capitol police ordered her to remove her button.


“I wanted people to understand how I felt about it as a woman," Hickey said. "I’m tired of seeing this legislation attacking my reproductive rights. So I was obviously not happy about being asked to take it off.”

The ACLU of Georgia filed a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of Hickey and another woman, saying police violated their First Amendment rights.

ACLU legal director Sean Young was at the hearing at the federal court Thursday, arguing that the protesters should be allowed to wear the buttons.

“That button was basically saying don’t mess with us, and don’t mess with women and their reproductive choices, and don’t tell women and couples how they should start a family or when to expand it," Young said. "The government has no right to do that.”

Those in support of the bill say they want to protect the rights of the unborn. Currently, Georgia law prevents abortions after 20 weeks, except for in cases of incest, rape and if the health of the mother is in question.

On Thursday, protesters once again lined the steps of the Capitol dressed as characters from dystopian TV series "The Handmaid's Tale," as controversy over the bill continues.