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A post-'Roe' world in Georgia will mean more restrictions -- and more political battles

Sam Whitehead, Kaiser Health News on

Published in News & Features

ATLANTA — Jerisha Morton didn’t realize she was pregnant until about six weeks into her pregnancy. She soon started feeling waves of intense nausea.

“I can’t smell anything. You’re so weak that you have to lay down all the time. It’s rough,” Morton, 27, said recently as she sat in a Planned Parenthood clinic in Atlanta.

Morton was diagnosed with hyperemesis gravidarum, or severe nausea during pregnancy. She thought she couldn’t handle nine months of being sick, she said, so she chose to have an abortion.

At the clinic, as she picked up the pills for her medication abortion, Morton estimated she was eight weeks into her pregnancy. A Georgia law currently on hold — but likely to take effect soon — outlaws the procedure at about six weeks, with few exceptions.

“It’s making people not have a choice. It’s taking their choice away before they even find out,” Morton said.

Women in Georgia, like those in many other parts of the country, could soon have less access to abortion now that the U.S. Supreme Court has released its decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Like the draft ruling leaked in May, it strikes down the abortion protections laid out in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case and gives states the authority to regulate the procedure.

 

Patients and providers will have to figure out how to navigate the new legal landscape. Changes to the laws in Georgia will be felt across the region, because the state has served as a destination for people seeking an abortion.

In 2019, more abortions were performed for out-of-state residents in Georgia than in any other Southern state — and in nearly every other state in the country, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That year, 6,500 abortions performed in Georgia were obtained by people who didn’t live there.

Abortion access is already a campaign issue in Georgia. And it’s one of many states where the Dobbs decision will set in motion a cascade of legal and legislative action restricting abortion access, said Elizabeth Nash, a policy analyst with the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.

The state’s conservative political leadership has made abortion a target. In 2019, Georgia legislators passed a bill that bans most abortions after embryonic or fetal cardiac activity can be detected in the womb, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The law also includes so-called “personhood” language, which gives embryos legal status when cardiac activity can be detected. That language could have broad implications, Nash said, and could affect every part of Georgia’s legal code about a person’s rights.

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©2022 Kaiser Health News. Visit khn.org. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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