Georgia abortion providers urge court to block six-week abortion ban at trial
ATLANTA — This week, abortion providers and advocates in Georgia went on trial, seeking to block the state’s ban on abortion after about six weeks of pregnancy. For more than three months, the ban forced Georgians to leave the state for essential care even in emergency circumstances, continue pregnancies against their will, or self-administer abortions without medical support. During two days of testimony in Fulton County Superior Court, the court heard from experts about the harms of the six-week ban, and the plaintiffs argued for the court to permanently block the ban as quickly as possible.
The state legal challenge, Sister Song c. state of georgiawas filed in July, shortly after a federal appeals court lifted an injunction against the ban (HB 481), allowing it to take effect for the first time since it was signed into law in 2019. The lawsuit says no only that the Georgia Constitution contains strong protections for individual privacy and prohibits political interference in pregnancy decisions, but that the law was void under the federal Constitution when it was enacted in 2019. The lawsuit disputes also a provision of HB 481 that further violates the privacy rights of Georgians by giving prosecutors unfettered access to the private medical records of patients who have had abortions without due process.
Statement from Monica Simpson, Executive Director, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective:
“This lawsuit is about our right to make decisions about our bodies, so the stakes couldn’t be higher. Georgia has one of the strictest abortion bans in the country, and as with all policies that suppress rights, deny access and police bodies, it is steeped in a white supremacist agenda designed to affect disproportionately communities of color. For months, people have been forced to carry their pregnancies to term or cross state lines to access medical care and risk criminalization. It is time to end this extreme and cruel political interference in our health care decisions, our bodily autonomy and our lives. The people of Georgia deserve reproductive justice.
Statement from Julia Kaye, staff attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project:
“We are grateful to have had the opportunity to demonstrate in court the devastating harm that Governor Kemp’s six-week abortion ban causes every day, especially to black and brown Georgians. The state witnesses who testified today relied on junk science that has been repeatedly debunked. In fact, throughout the trial, the state doubled down on its political agenda to deprive women and others who need abortion care of their power to make the best medical decisions for themselves and their families. We look forward to the day when the court strikes down Governor Kemp’s cruel forced pregnancy law and the people of Georgia can once again access all essential reproductive health care.
Statement from Cory Isaacson, Legal Director of the ACLU of Georgia:
“We have heard from leading experts and obstetricians/gynecologists in Georgia who have pointed out the devastating consequences of the state abortion ban. The evidence showed how the abortion ban has put the health of pregnant women at risk and hampered the ability of Georgian doctors to provide their patients with the care they need and deserve. The situation on the ground is dire and things will only get worse if the ban is not lifted. »
Statement from Kwajelyn Jackson, Executive Director of the Feminist Women’s Health Center:
“It is heartbreaking that we have been forced to turn away so many of our patients who need essential abortion care. Many of the patients we’ve heard from over the past few months are past the six week mark and don’t know where to turn for care. Everyone deserves to have access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care in order to make the best decisions for themselves and their family. The court should block this cruel ban to protect Georgians from further harm. We will continue to support our patients and their right to access the critical care they need, when they need it.
Statement from Amy Kennedy, Vice President of External Affairs at Planned Parenthood Southeast:
“Even one day with this ban in place would have been too many – and for more than three months this abortion ban has deprived Georgians of their right to decide what is best for their bodies and their lives. Providers Abortion clinics are forced to turn away patients because politicians have interfered in their exam rooms And our patients are devastated to learn that we can’t help them here This court has the opportunity to do good for the people Georgians and to restore access to abortion, and we urge her to do so without delay. Pending that relief, Planned Parenthood Southeast and our sister affiliates remain committed to helping Georgians access abortion after six weeks. of out-of-state pregnancy, and our doors remain open for non-judgmental resources and support.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, President and CEO, Planned Parenthood Federation of America:
“For more than three months now, Georgians have had to endure the consequences of this devastating abortion ban, living with fewer rights than Americans in other states. This unconstitutional ban on abortion has forced people beyond the early stages of pregnancy to find the resources to flee their state for treatment or to continue pregnancies against their will. Like all abortion restrictions, Georgia’s ban has disproportionately harmed communities that already face barriers to health care: Black, Indigenous, and people of color; low-income people; and those living in rural communities. We asked the court to end this state-inflicted trauma so that Georgian providers can care for patients in need. Planned Parenthood and our partners will continue the fight to restore the right to abortion in Georgia, no matter what.
Statement from Alice Wang, attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights:
“This ban has inflicted devastating damage on pregnant Georgians for too long. Georgia is already one of the most dangerous states for pregnant women – its maternal mortality rate is among the worst in the country, and black Georgians are twice as likely to die of pregnancy-related causes as non-white Georgians. hispanics. Denying people abortion care will exacerbate this public health crisis. We urge the court to overturn this ban so that Georgians can make their own health decisions and are not forced to carry a pregnancy to term against their will.
During the trial, medical experts – including plaintiff and abortion provider Dr. Carrie Cwiak, public health expert Dr. Whitney Rice, reproductive psychiatry expert Dr. Samantha Meltzer-Brody , ultrasound technician Gloria Nesmith and maternal-fetal medicine expert Dr. Martina Badell — testified that the abortion ban has had and will continue to have devastating consequences for the health of Georgians. The ban forces Georgians seeking an abortion after the first weeks of pregnancy to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles for treatment, and only if they can muster the resources to do so. Georgians and others seeking care in states where it is still legal face long wait times for appointments. Those who cannot overcome the enormous financial and logistical hurdles to obtain abortion care in other states are forced to carry their pregnancies to term and give birth against their will.
Evidence shows that being denied an abortion can have lasting health and financial consequences for individuals and their families, including increased health risks during and after pregnancy; education, career and life plans that have gone off the rails; and four times the likelihood of living below the Federal Poverty Line (FPL). For some, the consequences of the ban can be deadly. Black Georgians face barriers to accessing reproductive healthcare due to structural racism within the healthcare system. As a result, black women in Georgia experience maternal mortality and pregnancy complications at a rate more than twice that of non-Hispanic white women.
This case was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, and Georgia-based law firms Caplan Cobb and Bondurant Mixson & Elmore on behalf of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice. Collective, Feminist Women’s Health Center, Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc., Atlanta Comprehensive Wellness Clinic, Atlanta Women’s Medical Center, FemHealth USA d/b/a carafem, Summit Medical Associates, PC, Carrie Cwiak, MD, MPH, Lisa Haddad, MD , MS, MPH, Eva Lathrop, MD, MPH and Medical Students for Choice.