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Georgia And Tennessee Judges Block Controversial Abortion Bans

The laws would have restricted abortions past six weeks into pregnancy in most cases – which is before many women even know they are pregnant.

Getty Images / Heather Masson, left, and Victoria Jernigan hold signs promoting a woman's right to choose during a protest against abortion ban bills at the Georgia State Capitol building, on May 21, 2019

Federal judges blocked two controversial abortion bans in Georgia and Tennessee on Monday. The rulings come after states across the U.S. passed a wave of restrictive anti-abortion laws in 2019.

District Judge Steve C. Jones permanently struck down the Georgia law, which would have banned most abortions once a doctor could detect fetal cardiac activity around six weeks. Jones ruled the law was unconstitutional and violated several provisions from the 1973 Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade.

"After considering H.B. 481 as a whole, the title, the caption, the prior legislation, the legislative scheme, the old law, the evil, and the remedy, the Court rejects the State Defendants' argument that the statutory purpose solely concerns ‘promoting fetal well-being,’" Jones wrote in his decision.

The Georgia law was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) in May 2019, but a federal judge temporarily blocked it from going into effect in October. The judge’s decision came after groups including the ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood filed a lawsuit challenging the ban. 

“While today is a victory for Georgia patients, we are committed to fighting back against all policies — overt or subtle — that make access to basic health care dependent on who you are or where you live,” Planned Parenthood CEO and President Alexis McGill Johnson said following the decision

In a tweet Monday, Kemp said the state would appeal the court’s decision, adding, “Georgia values life, and we will keep fighting for the rights of the unborn.”

A federal court in Tennessee on Monday also blocked a similar abortion ban, shortly after Gov. Bill Lee (R) signed it into law. The federal district court issued a temporary restraining order blocking the law from going into effect. In authorizing the order, U.S. District Judge William Campbell wrote that the court was “bound by the Supreme Court holdings prohibiting undue burdens on the availability of pre-viability abortions.”

A hearing on a preliminary injunction, which could either reverse or extend the restraining order, has been scheduled for July 24, The Tennessean reported

Planned Parenthood said in a statement on Monday that Georgia was one of nine states last year to six-week abortion bans, “banning abortion from the earliest weeks of pregnancy, before many even know they are pregnant.” Other states that introduced restrictions include Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

Last month, the Supreme Court struck down a restrictive Louisiana abortion law, which could have closed down nearly all of the remaining clinics in the state. The ruling was considered a victory for reproductive rights in the first major abortion case of the Trump presidency.