Elbert P. Tuttle Courthouse

Elbert P. Tuttle Courthouse in Atlanta

ATLANTA – The U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals heard oral arguments Friday, Sept. 24, on Georgia’s controversial abortion law, and justices said they were inclined to wait on the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on a Mississippi abortion law before issuing a ruling.

“That would be the prudent way to proceed,” said Justice William Pryor during the hearing, which was livestreamed on the court’s website. Attorneys on both sides of the case – Jeffrey Harris for the state of Georgia and Gov. Brian Kemp, and Elizabeth Watson, representing SisterSong – said they had no issue with the court delaying a decision.

Georgia’s abortion law — known as the Living Infants Fairness Equality Act – seeks to prevent abortions after a fetal heartbeat has been detected, typically six weeks into pregnancy, except in special situations.

Lawsuits brought by the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights led the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia in December 2019 to rule the law unconstitutional. The legislation, which the General Assembly passed earlier that year, had been scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1, 2020.

If the 11th Circuit agrees with the district judge on SisterSong v. Kemp, Georgia could then appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which may then look at the law’s constitutionality and reexamine the precedent of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision legalizing abortion on demand.

The Mississippi case coming before the U.S. Supreme Court on Dec. 1 is Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which has the potential to challenge Roe v. Wade. The case has drawn more than 1,000 friend-of-the-court briefs so far from groups on both sides of the issue.

This story is available through a news partnership with Capitol Beat News Service, a project of the Georgia Press Educational Foundation.

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