Archbishop Gregory J. Hartmayer of Atlanta said he was “deeply disappointed that a federal judge struck Georgia’s so-called “heartbeat law” on abortion.
“All life is precious from the moment of conception until its natural end. As a people of faith, we must defend and protect life in all its stages,” he said, adding he was grateful Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp “has vowed to appeal this court decision and will support his efforts.”
On 13th July, District Judge Steve C. Jones of the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia made permanent the temporary block he had put on the law last fall.
It would have banned abortions once a foetal heartbeat is detected, which is around six weeks. It had exceptions to save the life of the mother and in the case of rape and incest if a police report is filed. It also made exceptions to allow abortions when a foetus has serious medical issues.
In his ruling Jones said the law infringed upon constitutional rights, including those established by the 1973 Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade and the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey. The Casey ruling upheld Roe’s determination that having an abortion is a constitutional right but it also said any restrictions on abortion must be judged on whether they imposed an ‘undue burden’ on a woman being able to exercise what the law says is her right to have an abortion.
“As this ban directly conflicts with binding Supreme Court precedent (i.e., the core holdings in Roe, Casey, and their progeny) and thereby infringes upon a woman’s constitutional right to obtain an abortion prior to viability, the court is left with no other choice but to declare it unconstitutional,” Jones added.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the national pro-life organisation, said: “The beating heart of a vulnerable unborn child should awaken the conscience of our nation, and Georgia helped lead the way with the passage of its heartbeat bill. We are disappointed that the will of the people is being thwarted with today’s decision striking down this compassionate law.”
She thanked Kemp “for championing this legislation, and we stand with pro-life Georgians in the fight to protect this strong, compassionate pro-life law.”
In his statement, Archbishop Hartmayer added: “I ask you all to join me in praying, through the intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, patroness of the unborn, for an end to abortion, and healing for all who have suffered because of it.”
Jones’ action to temporarily block the law last October came after a suit was filed against the law by Planned Parenthood Southeast, Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, Feminist Women’s Health Center, and several patients and doctors.
Of Jones’ 13th July ruling, Kemp’s office said in a statement: “We will appeal the court’s decision. Georgia values life, and we will keep fighting for the rights of the unborn.”
When it was passed by the Legislature, Republican Rep. Ed Setzler, the bill’s author, said the legislation was one of “common sense” to “balance the difficult circumstances women find themselves in with the basic right to life of a child”.
One opponent, Democratic Sen. Jen Jordan, said: “There’s nothing balanced about it: It’s an all-out abortion ban” and added that she was worried the new law would push obstetricians away from practicing in Georgia.
Current state law allows abortions up to the 20th week of pregnancy.
Kemp’s signing of the heartbeat measure on 7th May 2019, came after weeks of protests and amid outcry for legal action against it. It was to have gone into effect in January of this year until Jones temporarily blocked in the fall and now has struck it down.
The Georgia measure also prompted a response from Hollywood long before it was signed into law.
A group of 50 celebrities, led by activist actress Alyssa Milano, signed a letter in late March 2019 declaring a boycott of the state’s film industry if the bill passed.
Ashley Bratcher, lead actress in the pro-life movie Unplanned and native Georgian, responded in an open letter to Milano saying: “In Georgia, we care just as much about being pro-life as being pro-film. We don’t believe in putting a price tag on human life.”
Picture: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp is seen on 5th May 2020, in Albany, Ga. He signed the ‘heartbeat bill’ on 7th May 2019. On 13th July, District Judge Steve C. Jones of the US District Court for the Northern District of Georgia ruled the law infringed upon constitutional rights. (CNS photo/Curtis Compton, Atlanta Journal-Constitution,TNS via Reuters).