ACLU Asks Georgia Judge to Block Midterm Abortion Limits
By Andrew Harris & David Beasley – Dec 20, 2012 9:51 AM ET
Three Georgia doctors asked a state judge for an order blocking enforcement of laws limiting availability of midterm abortions to emergencies and instances where a pregnancy has been deemed “medically futile.”
The measures are part of an act signed into law May 1 by first-term Republican Governor Nathan Deal, who said then that the legislation gave additional protection to “unborn babies.”
“The act, which bans nearly all pre-viability abortions after 20 weeks post-fertilization, infringes on the fundamental right of a woman to decide whether and when to bear a child,” and breaches rights enshrined in Georgia’s constitution, the American Civil Liberties Union argued in a Nov. 30 complaint.
The legislation is set to take effect Jan. 1. Judge Doris L. Downs in Atlanta is hearing arguments on the ACLU’s bid for injunctive relief today. The New York-based organization is also seeking a finding that the act is unconstitutional, according to its complaint.
“This is a case about abortion,” the state said in opposition papers filed with the court on Dec. 13. “It is not, however, a case about the federal right to an abortion recognized by the United States Supreme Court in decisions binding on all courts in this state.”
The doctors’ lawyers are asking the court to find a right to abortion in the state’s constitution that is separate and distinct from that found in the federal document, Olens argued in that filing.
“A careful review of the text and history of the Georgia Constitution will reveal that such a right does not exist,” the attorney general said.
Olens told Downs the dispute requires “thorough and thoughtful litigation and argument and ample time for the court to decide the merits,” urging her to not do so on this motion.
In its complaint, the ACLU also said it sought an order blocking a state law making hospital records available to local prosecutors.
Olens answered the records-access law has existed since 1973 and can’t now be said to subject the plaintiffs to imminent harm.
“While the fact that the provision has long been in effect may mitigate the risk of immediate harm,” the ACLU replied, “it does not fix the provision’s glaring constitutional deficiency.”
The case is Lathrop v. Deal, 2012-cv-224423, Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia (Atlanta).
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