The Washington Post

Court allows abortion law to take effect


A federal appeals court overturned a lower-court ruling and allowed Georgia’s restrictiv­e 2019 abortion law to take effect immediatel­y Wednesday. The decision was expected after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that there is no constituti­onal right to an abortion.

The law, which had been barred from taking effect, bans most abortions once a “detectable human heartbeat” is present. Cardiac activity can be detected by ultrasound in cells within an embryo that will eventually become the heart as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many pregnancie­s are detected.

The Georgia law includes exceptions for rape and incest, as long as a police report is filed. It also allows for later abortions when the mother’s life is at risk or a serious medical condition renders a fetus unviable.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit said that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Mississipp­i case that overturned Roe v. Wade allows the law to take effect. U.S. Appeals Court Chief Judge William H. Pryor Jr. wrote that the ruling in that case “makes clear no right to abortion exists under the Constituti­on, so Georgia may prohibit them.”

The appeals court also rejected arguments that a provision of the law that changes the definition of “natural person” is unconstitu­tionally vague. The “personhood” provision gives a fetus the same legal rights as people have after birth.

Normally, the ruling wouldn’t take effect for weeks. But the court issued a second order Wednesday allowing the law to take effect immediatel­y.

The National Abortion Federation listed 10 clinics that were providing surgical abortions in Georgia before the ruling. At least one clinic, in Savannah, had already closed following the Supreme Court ruling.

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