Georgia Abortion Providers Urge Court to Block Six-Week Abortion Ban at Trial

Affiliate: ACLU of Georgia
October 25, 2022 5:15 pm

ATLANTA — This week, Georgia abortion providers and advocates went to trial, seeking to block the state’s ban on abortion after approximately six weeks of pregnancy. For more than three months, the ban has forced Georgians to leave the state for essential care even under emergency circumstances, continue their pregnancies against their will, or self-manage their abortion without medical support. During two days of testimony before the Superior Court of Fulton County, the court heard from experts on the harms of the six-week ban, and plaintiffs argued for the court to permanently block the ban as swiftly as possible.

The state court challenge, SisterSong v. State of Georgia, was filed in July, shortly after a federal appeals court lifted an injunction against the ban (H.B. 481), allowing it to take effect for the first time since it was signed into law in 2019. The lawsuit asserts not 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 enacted in 2019. The lawsuit also challenges a provision of H.B. 481 that further violates Georgians’ privacy rights by giving prosecutors unfettered access to abortion patients’ private medical records without due process.

Statement from Monica Simpson, executive director, SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective:

“This trial is about our right to make decisions about our bodies, so the stakes could not be higher. Georgia has one of the strictest abortion bans in the country, and as with all policies that remove rights, deny access, and police bodies, it is steeped in a white supremacist agenda meant to disproportionately affect 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’s time to put an end to this extreme and cruel political interference with our health care decisions, our bodily autonomy, and our lives. The people of Georgia deserve reproductive justice.”

Statement from Julia Kaye, staff attorney with the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project:

“We are grateful to have had the opportunity to demonstrate in court the devastating harm that Gov. Kemp’s six-week abortion ban is causing every day, especially to Black and Brown Georgians. The state’s witnesses who testified today relied on junk science that has repeatedly been debunked. In fact, throughout the trial, the state double-downed on its political agenda to rob women and other people 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 Gov. Kemp’s cruel forced pregnancy law and the people of Georgia can once again access the full scope of essential reproductive health care.”

Statement from Cory Isaacson, ACLU of Georgia legal director:

“We have heard from leading experts and Georgia OB/GYNs who have highlighted the devastating consequences of the state’s abortion ban. The evidence has shown how the abortion ban has put the health of pregnant people in peril and has impaired the ability of Georgia 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 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 have heard from in the last few months are past the six-week mark and don’t know where to turn to for care. Everyone deserves access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care to make the best decisions for themselves and their families. The court should block this cruel ban to protect Georgians from further harm. We will continue to stand by 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 effect 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 own bodies and lives. Abortion providers are forced to turn away patients because politicians have interfered in their exam rooms. And our patients are devastated to learn that we cannot help them here. This court has the opportunity to do right by Georgians and restore abortion access, and we urge it to do so without delay. As we wait for that relief, Planned Parenthood Southeast and our sister affiliates remain committed to helping Georgians access abortion after six weeks of pregnancy out of state, 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 over three months now, Georgians have had to suffer the consequences of this devastating abortion ban, living with fewer rights than Americans in other states. This unconstitutional abortion ban has forced people beyond the earliest stages of pregnancy to find the resources to flee their state for care or 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; people with low incomes; and those who live in rural communities. We have asked the court to end this state-inflicted trauma so that providers in Georgia can care for the patients who need them. Planned Parenthood and our partners will continue the fight to restore abortion rights in Georgia, no matter what.”

Statement from Alice Wang, staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights:

“This ban has inflicted devastating harm on pregnant Georgians for far too long. Georgia is already one of the most dangerous states for pregnant people—its maternal mortality rate is among the worst in the nation, and Black Georgians are over twice as likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than non-Hispanic white Georgians. Denying people abortion care will exacerbate this public health crisis. We are urging the court to strike down this ban so Georgians can make their own health care decisions and are not forced to carry pregnancies 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 Georgians’ health. The ban forces Georgians seeking abortion after the earliest weeks of pregnancy to travel hundreds or even thousands of miles for care, and that’s only if they can pull together the resources to do so. Georgians and other people seeking care in states where it’s still legal face long wait times for appointments. Those who cannot surmount the tremendous financial and logistical barriers of getting abortion care in other states are forced to carry their pregnancy to term and give birth against their will.

Evidence shows that being denied an abortion can have lasting health and financial consequences for people and their families, including elevated health risks during and after pregnancy; derailed educational, career, and life plans; and four times the likelihood to live below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). For some, the consequences of the ban can be deadly. Black Georgians face barriers to access reproductive health care because of structural racism within the health care system. As a result, Black women in Georgia experience maternal mortality and pregnancy complications at a rate more than two times 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, 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, P.C., Carrie Cwiak, M.D., M.P.H., Lisa Haddad, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., Eva Lathrop, M.D., M.P.H., and Medical Students for Choice.

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