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Federal appeals court hears arguments over Georgia’s ‘Heartbeat Bill’

WSB Atlanta logo WSB Atlanta 9/24/2021 WSBTV.com News Staff

The ruling by a federal court stating that Georgia’s proposed “Heartbeat Bill” was unconstitutional appears to be staying intact -- at least for the near future.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals listened to testimony Friday appealing the decision by the lower court.

Channel 2′s Richard Elliot monitored the testimony and said the appeals court is leaning towards holding off on their decision until the U.S. Supreme Court hears and rules on Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban law, which may not happen until the summer of 2022.

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Georgia’s law would ban abortions at the first sign of a fetal heartbeat, around six weeks into a pregnancy.

The law was signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in May 2019 with the idea it would go into effect beginning in Jan. 2020.

Several groups filed suit against the state the following month to get an injunction against enforcing the ban before its effective date.

“As long as this case remains pending, it’s important for folks to know that Georgia’s abortion ban remains blocked and that abortion is safe and legal in Georgia,” said Sean Young, legal counsel for the ACLU.

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The case was heard in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, where a judge ruled in favor of the injunction. In July 2020, the same judge ruled the bill unconstitutional.

Cobb County lawmaker Ed Setzler wrote the Georgia law. Setzler told Elliot that he feels the entire law is constitutional because it recognizes a fetus as a legal person.

“|The whole idea is based on science, law and good old common sense,” Setzler said. “Georgia laid a foundation by recognizing the full legal personhood of the unborn children in the Life Act, that allows Georgia to be the state where pregnant moms can get child support from dad. No other state does that.”

Elliot said the appeals court judges seemed to be leaning towards the option of severing parts of the law that they felt were unconstitutional, like the six week ban.

But he added they could leave in other parts of the controversial law including the tax credit for parents of unborn children and the parts that don’t deal with actual abortions.

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