A 2012 law banning abortion after 20 weeks is about to go into effect after the Georgia Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of the lawsuit on a technicality: you can’t sue the government without their permission, under sovereign immunity laws.
This has really broad implications for lawmaking in Georgia. If the legislature passes an unconstitutional law, sovereign immunity limits the ability of stakeholders to sue and have the law overturned. Given just how frequently laws are passed in the middle of the night during the last few days of legislative session, the Supreme Court decision means advocates will have few options to challenge unconstitutional laws.
The law prohibiting abortions after 20 weeks is based on faulty science pushed by anti-choice advocates. They know outright challenges to abortion laws will lose, because the vast majority of Americans support keeping abortion legal. So instead, they push laws that chip away at access, intentionally making it harder for pregnant people to make the health care decisions that are in their best interest.
In the past fifteen years, Georgia has passed numerous laws to reduced abortion access. These laws mandate 24-hour waiting periods before someone can receive an abortion, require doctors to “counsel” their patients with a state created script full of inaccurate information, and ban private insurance plans purchased through the healthcare marketplace from offering abortion coverage.
“While the abortion ban has been in place, women in Georgia have been unable to get the health care they need. That’s why we challenged the law in the first place and why it is so important to get this case back on track quickly,” said Andrea Young, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia in a press release.
The Supreme Court decision does not allow the lawsuit to proceed because of the sovereign immunity the state has, however the ACLU can refile the lawsuit in a different manner and potentially proceed with the case again. It’s unclear how the state Supreme Court would rule on the actual issue of the law itself, however Gov. Nathan Deal just stacked the Supreme Court with three new appointments so that does not bode well.
I’ll also note that Gubernatorial candidate and Secretary of State Brian Kemp tweeted out his support for the ruling, so just put that one in your pocket when it comes time to vote for Governor next year.
— Brian Kemp (@BrianKempGA) June 20, 2017
Our policymakers play games with the health and wellness of pregnant people because it suits their politics. And while anti-choice groups are cheering the decision, the fight isn’t over yet.