December 3, 2012 — The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia on Friday filed a lawsuit on behalf of three physicians to challenge a Georgia law (HB 954) that bans abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The law is scheduled to take effect on Jan. 1.
The law does not allow exceptions for rape or incest, or for most cases of severe fetal anomaly or danger to the woman's health (Cook, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/30). It does permit abortions after 20 weeks if the fetus will not survive or if there is a "medical emergency," defined as "any condition which, in reasonable medical judgment, so complicates the medical condition of a pregnant female as to necessitate the immediate abortion of her pregnancy to avert her death" or for which a delay would risk irreversible impairment of a bodily function for the woman or death of the fetus (Harris, Bloomberg Businessweek, 12/1).
Proponents of the new law say the 20-week limit is necessary because they claim fetuses can feel pain at that point, but medical experts dispute that theory. Doctors who violate the law's requirements could face felony charges and up to 10 years in prison, although the legislation protects doctors from civil suits (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/2).
The lawsuit states that the measure violates women's rights to due process, equal protection and privacy under the Georgia Constitution.
The suit also argues that the medical emergency provision would force a woman with a high-risk pregnancy to wait until she is in immediate danger to qualify for an abortion (Bloomberg Businessweek, 12/1).
Abortion-rights opponents said they welcome the lawsuit because they hope it will lead to a challenge to Roe v. Wade (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 11/30).
Repro Health Watch — an exciting new edition of the Women’s Health Policy Report — compiles and distributes media coverage of proposed and enacted state laws and ballot initiatives affecting women's access to comprehensive reproductive health care, as well as litigation in response to those provisions.