US District Judge Steven Jones on Monday struck down Georgia’s latest anti-abortion law as unconstitutional.
The Georgia General Assembly approved House Bill 481, also known as the Living Infant Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act, in March 2019. HB 481 changed several aspects of already existing Georgia abortion law, including the definitions of “natural person” and “unborn child.” Most notably, HB 481 outlawed abortions after the detection of a “fetal human heartbeat,” which usually occurs in the sixth week of pregnancy. Accordingly, a violation of this mandate—performing an abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat—was punishable by one to 10 years in prison.
Quoting the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade (1973), the Jones wrote “before viability, a State may not prohibit any woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy. … It is in the public interest, and it is this court’s duty, to ensure constitutional rights are protected.”
The state argued that the sole statutory purpose of HB 481 “concerns promoting fetal well-being.” The court rejected that argument and determined that HB 481 (in its entirety) is subject to a permanent injunction against enforcement by Governor Brian Kemp or any of his successors.
Moving forward, the court noted that “the state of Georgia’s abortion laws that were in effect prior to the passage of H.B. 481 remain in effect.”