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Federal judge blocks Georgia's 'heartbeat' abortion law

By Daniel Uria
Federal judge blocks Georgia's 'heartbeat' abortion law
A federal judge blocked a Georgia law that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be heard from taking effect on Jan. 1 2020. File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 1 (UPI) -- A federal judge in Georgia ruled Tuesday to block the state's so-called "heartbeat" abortion law from taking effect.

District Judge Steve Jones ruled to prevent House Bill 481 from taking effect Jan. 1, 2020, to allow legal challenges against the law to resolve, stating that the U.S. Supreme Court has "repeatedly and unequivocally" held that a state may not ban abortion prior to viability, which is established as between 24 weeks and 26 weeks of pregnancy in Roe vs. Wade.

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"Under no circumstances whatsoever may a state prohibit or ban abortions at any point prior to viability, no matter what interests the state asserts to support it," Jones wrote.

The law, which was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in May, made it so that abortions could not be performed after a fetal heartbeat can be heard, barring abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.

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Jones added that the law prevents a woman from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy at a point before viability and that the law's language was too vague.

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"HB 481 changes the definition of a natural person in Georgia, but defendants have been unable to point to any guidance for law enforcement or the judiciary on how to implement that change throughout code," he wrote.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in June seeking to block the law on the grounds that it violates a woman's right to an abortion as established under Roe vs. Wade.

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"We just blocked Georgia's abortion ban," the ACLU wrote on Twitter after Tuesday's ruling. "Abortion is still legal in all 50 states. We won't stop fighting until all efforts to block access are defeated."

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