Fulton County judge to hear arguments in state abortion law case

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Credit: Natrice Miller / Natrice.Miller@ajc.com

Georgia’s abortion law on Monday is back in court, where abortion rights advocates are asking a judge to block the statute from being enforced, saying it violates the right to privacy guaranteed by the state constitution.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney has scheduled a two-day bench trial to hear arguments from abortion rights supporters who want him to block the new restrictions from being enforced. State lawyers will contend the law should remain in effect because “abortion always harms a third party.”

McBurney denied an August request from abortion providers asking him to stop enforcement of the law while the case was ongoing. A decision in the case will determine whether the law will continue to be enforced, though any decision will likely be appealed.

A ruling from the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in July allowed Georgia’s 2019 abortion law to be enforced. That means most abortions are no longer allowed once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, typically about six weeks into a pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant.

A June decision by the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 ruling that guaranteed a nationwide right to abortion, paving the way for Georgia’s law to take effect.

The SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and other abortion rights groups and providers sued Georgia in 2019 after the Legislature passed the law. Many of those same groups are now suing in Fulton County Superior Court citing the state’s constitution, which some legal experts have said grants more expansive rights to privacy than the U.S. Constitution.

The state had unsuccessfully tried to “cancel or delay” this week’s trial, saying, among other things, it was too close to the Nov. 8 election. Abortion is a hot topic on the campaign trail this fall.

McBurney quickly denied the request.

“The state has offered four reasons for this ‘cancellation,’ which can be summarized as ‘We are really busy with other things,’ ‘There are no facts in dispute,’ ‘We don’t know what facts are in dispute,’ and ‘You can’t do what you are trying to do,’ ” McBurney wrote. “The court’s response, detailed below, can be summarized as ‘Who isn’t?,’ ‘There are,’ ‘You do,’ and ‘I can.’ ”