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Appeals court allows Georgia 'heartbeat' abortion law to take effect

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled that Georgia's so-called "heartbeat" abortion law can take effect immediately, overturning a lower court's injunction. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/121ac51bed401214519b7658b14f137c/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday ruled that Georgia's so-called "heartbeat" abortion law can take effect immediately, overturning a lower court's injunction. File Photo by Pat Benic/UPI | License Photo

July 20 (UPI) -- A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled to allow Georgia's so-called "heartbeat" abortion law to take effect following the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to overturn Roe vs. Wade.

The panel of judges instructed U.S. District Judge Steve Jones to overturn his ruling blocking the law and lifted the prior ban, allowing the law to take effect immediately.

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"We vacate the injunction, reverse the judgment in favor of the abortionists, and remand the instructions to enter in favor of the state officials," Chief Judge Bill Pryor of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals wrote.

Under the law most abortions are banned once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, which usually occurs about six weeks into a pregnancy -- before many women know they are pregnant.

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The law does include exceptions for medical emergencies, "medically futile" pregnancies, and rape and incest in cases where a police report has been filed.

Georgia Gov. Brien Kemp, who signed the law in 2019, praised the court's decision. "

"We are overjoyed that the court has paved the way for the implementation of Georgia's LIFE Act and as mothers navigate pregnancy, birth, parenthood, or alternative options to parenthood -- like adoption -- Georgia's public, private and non-profit sectors stand ready to provide the resources they need to be safe, healthy and informed," he said.

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The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Southeast and Planned Parenthood Federation of America issued a joint statement saying the decision to stay the injunction was "outside of the normal court procedures."

"This is a highly unorthodox action that will immediately push essential abortion care out of reach for patients beyond the earliest stages of pregnancy," they wrote. "Across the state, providers are now being forced to turn away patients who thought they would be able to access abortion, immediately changing the course of their lives and futures. This is horrific."

Planned Parenthood Federation of America President and CEO Alexis McGill Johnson described the law as a "grave human rights violation" and said the organization would "do everything in our power to fight back" and ensure abortion access to people in Georgia and throughout the United States.

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The House last week passed a pair of measures codifying Roe vs. Wade into law and protecting people traveling out of state to obtain an abortion, but neither is expected to gain traction in the evenly divided Senate.

Abortion-rights advocates march against overturning of Roe vs. Wade

Women attend a candlelight vigil in Washington on June 26, two days after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe vs. Wade, ending federal abortion protections. Photo by Jemal Countess/UPI | License Photo

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