ATLANTA — A federal judge has temporarily blocked a law in Georgia that would have banned abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected in the womb.
District Court Judge Steve C. Jones issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday that will stop the law, known as the 'heartbeat bill,' from taking effect while the case is argued in court.
The bill was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in May and was set to become law on Jan. 1.
A fetal heartbeat is typically detected at six weeks, which is before many women know they are pregnant.
The heartbeat bill's exceptions include cases that involve rape or incest when the woman files a police report. It allows for abortions when a fetus is determined not to be viable or the mother's health is in jeopardy.
The current Georgia law allows abortions up to the 20th week of pregnancy.
Planned Parenthood Southeast was joined by Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, Feminist Women’s Health Center and a number of patients and doctors in filing the legal challenge.
Staci Fox, president and chief executive officer of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said the decision was a "victory for the people of Georgia and the entire nation."
"To the countless Georgians who spoke out against this ban and were ignored, we promised to keep fighting every step of the way and we have," Fox said in a statement. "To our partners, we promised we were in this together and we are. To Governor Kemp, we promised to see you in court, and we did. But most importantly, to our patients, we promised to protect access to safe, legal abortion and together we have.”
Kemp's office said Tuesday that it was still reviewing the court ruling.
"Despite today’s outcome, we remain confident in our position," said Candice Broce, a spokeswoman for Kemp. "We will continue to fight for the unborn and work to ensure that all Georgians have the opportunity to live, grow, and prosper.”
Georgia was one of seven states, along with Alabama, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio to pass similar abortion bans this year. The laws have been challenged or already blocked in each state.
“The court recognized today that this law is blatantly unconstitutional and a clear attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade,” said Emily Nestler, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights. "Instead of passing laws that restrict the rights of pregnant women, Georgia lawmakers should be implementing policies that help pregnant women."
Nestler added that Georgia has the worst maternal mortality rate in the country.
Republican lawmakers say they are passing abortion bans with hopes that at least one challenge will escalate to the Supreme Court and overturn Roe v. Wade.
Kemp said earlier this year that the abortion ban was meant to "protect the innocent" and "champion the vulnerable."
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Federal judge blocks Georgia's controversial abortion ban