A Georgia state judge Tuesday overturned Georgia’s Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act, also known as the Heartbeat Bill, ruling it unconstitutional from the time it was drafted. Judge Robert C.I. McBurney found that two sections of the LIFE Act were void because of this.
The sections at issue criminalized abortions once a fetus had a detectable heartbeat–which typically happens six weeks into a pregnancy. The sections also required doctors to determine the presence of a heartbeat before performing any abortion and report to Department of Public Health if they performed an abortion.
The LIFE Act was passed in 2019 and took effect in 2020. Roe v Wade, which legalized abortion in the US, was still in effect when the LIFE Act was originally passed. Therefore, McBurney found the acts provisions were unconstitutional because the “constitutionality of an act…is to be determined [by] the date of its passage.” McBurney also stated in his opinion that this act “must be re-enacted in our post-Roe world if they [is] to become the law of Georgia.”
Many of the plaintiffs had challenged the LIFE Act prior to the US Supreme Court’s June decision to overturn Roe in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. At the time, Georgia federal courts found that the LIFE Act was unconstitutional based on Roe v Wade. Once the Dobbs decision was released, however, those decisions were overturned.