ACLU files new challenge against state’s heartbeat abortion law

ATLANTA — The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a new lawsuit against the state’s heartbeat abortion law.

Last week, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the law to take effect immediately after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade a month ago.

Gov. Brian Kemp originally signed H.B. 481 into law in 2019. The ACLU 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.

In the new challenge to H.B. 481, the ACLU said the law “was void from the start under Georgia judicial precedent because it clearly violated federal constitutional precedent when enacted in 2019, and a subsequent change in federal law cannot revive it; and (2) the Georgia Constitution’s especially strong protection for the fundamental right to privacy prohibits this political interference with an individual’s deeply personal and medically consequential decision whether to continue a pregnancy. Doctors and advocates are asking the state court to immediately block the law while the lawsuit proceeds in the courts.”

Following last week’s decision by the 11th Circuit, Kemp said he and his family were happy with the ruling and promised the state will be ready when law takes effect.


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

“When Kemp’s abortion ban suddenly took effect last week and patients across the state had their medical appointments canceled, they were understandably distraught – now forced to travel thousands of miles out of state for care, or else have their health and their futures upended by government-mandated pregnancy and childbirth,” said Julia Kaye, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “Georgia’s state constitution clearly prohibits Kemp’s extreme political interference with Georgians’ bodies, health, and lives, and we are fighting with every tool at our disposal to ensure everyone has the power to access the essential health care they need.”

“The lawsuit also includes a state constitutional challenge to a provision of Georgia law, expanded by H.B. 481, which violates Georgians’ privacy rights by giving prosecutors unfettered access to abortion patients’ private medical records without any due process,” the ACLU said in a news release.

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.