Georgia anti-abortion law likely to remain on hold through at least mid-July

Ashleigh Irvin holds up a “keep abortion safe and legal” sign while standing under an umbrella on Sunday, June 26, 2022. Abortion-rights demonstrators gathered on the steps of The Capitol to protest in response to The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. (Natrice Miller / natrice.miller@ajc.com)

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

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Ashleigh Irvin holds up a “keep abortion safe and legal” sign while standing under an umbrella on Sunday, June 26, 2022. Abortion-rights demonstrators gathered on the steps of The Capitol to protest in response to The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade. (Natrice Miller / natrice.miller@ajc.com)

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

A federal appeals court has asked attorneys on both sides of the challenge to Georgia’s anti-abortion law to file additional documents in response to last week’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Reproductive rights groups and abortion providers sued Georgia in 2019 after the Legislature passed an abortion law outlawing the procedure in most cases once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, typically about six weeks into a pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant.

The challenge to Georgia’s law has been pending before a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Atlanta. In September, the panel put the case on hold, deciding to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Mississippi, the case that was just decided.

In July 2020, a federal judge struck down the Georgia law, leading to the appeal before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals. The judge found the law violated a women’s right to an abortion as established by the precedent set in Roe v. Wade.

Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr on Friday filed paperwork in federal court asking the judges to allow the law to go into effect.

The court asked attorneys to file legal briefs that “address the effect, if any, the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has on this appeal.” Attorneys have until July 15 to submit the filings.

Anthony Kreis, a Georgia State University law professor specializing in constitutional law, said the judges will probably file an order shortly after attorneys submit their briefs.

Kreis said plaintiffs aim is to delay the law being upheld. “It is strategically advantageous to keep that law from going into affect for as long as you can,” he said. “The extra month is important from a policy perspective.”

Once attorneys file the briefs, the federal appeals court could uphold Georgia’s anti-abortion law or the three-judge panel could return the case to U.S. District Judge Steve Jones in Atlanta, who struck down the Georgia statute in 2020, with instructions to uphold it.