Georgia politicians, leaders react to judge overturning state’s heartbeat abortion law

A Fulton County Superior Court judge overturned Georgia’s ban on abortion saying it violated the U.S. Constitution and U.S. Supreme Court precedent when it was enacted.

The law, initially signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019, essentially banned most abortions at six weeks once a “detectable human heartbeat” is present.

With the law overturned, abortions in Georgia are legal until about 20 weeks into the pregnancy under previous Georgia law.

[DOWNLOAD: Free WSB-TV News app for alerts as news breaks]

A group of pro-choice groups filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court earlier this year asking Judge Robert McBurney to declare the Georgia abortion law unconstitutional.

McBurney ruled in favor of the lawsuit, citing Georgia Supreme Court precedent that states if a law is unconstitutional when passed, it cannot be made constitutional by a change.

“At that time, the spring of 2019, everywhere in America, including in Georgia, it was unequivocally unconstitutional for governments to ban abortions before viability. And yet, the life act did just that.”

McBurney ruled that since Roe v. Wade was still in effect in 2019, the heartbeat abortion law was unconstitutional then and that even its overturning in the summer of 2022 cannot make it constitutional.

RELATED STORIES:

Channel 2′s Richard Elliot spoke with Republican Rep. Ed Setzler, who authored the Georgia Life Act. He says he was not surprised to hear the ruling.

“I don’t think it’s all that surprising that a liberal judge from Fulton County is going to try and find a roadblock to throw away the Life Act, which is a common sense, reasonable bill,” Setzler said.

Kemp’s office released a statement on Tuesday afternoon that said: “Today’s ruling places the personal beliefs of a judge over the will of the legislature and people of Georgia. The state has already filed a notice of appeal, and we will continue to fight for the lives of Georgia’s unborn children.”

A spokesperson for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr confirmed that his office has filed a notice of appeal and “will continue to fulfill our duty to defend the laws of our state in court.”

[SIGN UP: WSB-TV Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Suzanne Guy, with the pro-life group Life Initiatives and Values Organization, told Channel 2′s Audrey Washington that despite the ruling, they will not stop fighting for life.

“[We’re] profoundly sickened and disturbed,” Guy said. “The pro-life movement is really about a culture of life...We will be following closely what happens and what the next steps are in this situation.”

Amy Kennedy, a representative with Planned Parenthood Southeast, told Washington that just hours after the ruling, they are already working on plans to expand care.

“We are relieved that the ban is blocked,” Kennedy said. “We’re excited to see an expansion to access to abortions in Georgia.”

Congresswoman Nikema Williams, the Chairwoman of the Democratic Party of Georgia, released a lengthy statement on behalf of the party.

“Today’s ruling is a victory and a relief for women across the state whose health and well-being have been at risk for months under Governor Brian Kemp’s dangerous six-week abortion ban. While abortion access is protected in Georgia for now, make no mistake: reproductive rights are still relentlessly under attack by Georgia Republicans like Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr, who wasted no time announcing he will appeal the decision and spend even more taxpayer dollars working to strip Georgians of their rights. In the upcoming legislative session and beyond, rest assured that Georgia Democrats will fight tooth and nail to protect abortion access and defend every Georgian’s right to make their own personal medical decisions without government interference.

“Perhaps more than anything, this ruling underscores the urgency of electing a U.S. Senator who will fight to protect abortion rights at the federal level. This is the one issue on which Herschel Walker has been perfectly clear where he stands: he would vote for a national abortion ban with no exceptions, even in cases of rape, incest, or even to save the life of the mother. As we brace for continued Republican attacks on reproductive rights, it’s crucial that we defeat Herschel Walker and re-elect Reverend Warnock to defend Georgia women’s right to choose in the U.S. Senate.”

Congresswoman Nikema Williams

Democratic Representative Lucy McBath also called the ruling a win for Georgia’s women.

“This is a tremendous win for women across Georgia. We must continue doing all we can to protect the rights of women and families in every corner of our state,” she said.