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Federal judge hears arguments to halt Georgia's new anti-abortion law

Maya T. Prabhu, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution on

Published in News & Features

ATLANTA -- A federal judge said Monday that he hoped to determine soon whether the court should block Georgia's new anti-abortion law from going into effect, but he hinted at the potential long road ahead for the case.

It's unclear when U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones will rule on the request from the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia to halt the new law, which bans most abortions once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity.

Any ruling in the case would almost certainly be appealed.

"I recognize I'm not going to be the last word on this case," Jones said.

The law is scheduled to go into effect Jan. 1. The ACLU has asked Jones to rule before then.

Attorneys for the ACLU said the new law is essentially a ban on abortions, but lawyers for the state said the procedure still could be performed before cardiac activity is detected.

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The new law could outlaw abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, which is before many women know they are pregnant.

The legal arguments were similar to those made in other states that passed similar legislation this year, but they also focused on "personhood" language in the Georgia law, which extends legal rights to fertilized eggs.

Arguing for the ACLU, attorney Susan Talcott Camp said the law violates a woman's constitutional right of access to abortion until about 24 weeks of pregnancy, as established by the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

"No state interest is strong enough to justify banning abortion before the point of viability," Camp said. "A ban at any point before viability must fall."


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