Georgia 'Heartbeat Bill' abortion ban could become law if Roe v. Wade draft opinion holds
ATLANTA - Georgia is one of several states that could see an immediate impact if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade.
Late Monday POLITICO released a leaked draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito on a Mississippi abortion ban in which it appears the court is poised to strike down that 1973 decision.
"Roe was egregiously wrong from the start," Justice Alito wrote for the majority.
Legal experts point out, however, that the opinion was just a first draft, and it was written in February.
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"Drafts change drastically between the first draft and what the public usually sees," said Fred Smith, Jr. a law professor at Emory University, who specializes in Constitutional law. "They get better. They get more precise. They respond better to opposing arguments, and sometimes they no longer command a majority by the time the opinion ultimately comes out because justices have read a dissenting opinion, or they've read a concurring opinion that has different reasoning that they find more persuasive."
The court's final decision isn't expected until June or July.
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"I think this is a circumstance where the court is righting a wrong of the past in a way that jives with science, law and just good, old common sense," said state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth.
Rep. Setzler was the primary sponsor of Georgia's "heartbeat" abortion bill, which banned abortion procedures after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which is at about six weeks gestation.
Pro-choice advocates pointed out the ban takes effect before many women even know they are pregnant, and they filed a legal challenge to stop the bill from becoming law after Gov. Brian Kemp signed it in May 2019.
Last fall, the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Judicial Circuit determined it could not rule on the Georgia law until after the Supreme Court made a decision about the Mississippi abortion ban.
"If, in fact, the Supreme Court rules that states' legislatures can decide these questions, then I think we would expect very shortly thereafter a ruling from the 11th allowing our bill to go into effect," said Rep. Setzler. "And we could protect these fragile, small people that are the most helpless members of our human community."
The ruling could also spur Republican state lawmakers to pass even more restrictive abortion laws.
"I would be excited to have the conversation, but again, let's not prejudge where we are," said Rep. Setzler. "Let's let the court rule, but I do think that we can recognize that life begins at conception, all children are worthy of protection, even before they have a heartbeat."
Georgia House Minority Leader James Beverly, D-Macon, said he was shocked reading the draft opinion.
"I was disappointed, frustrated," said Rep. Beverly. "I was like, what are we doing?"
Leader Beverly fought against the "heartbeat bill" in the legislature and said if the court's final decision allows it to become law in Georgia, it will motivate voters.
"I think that the voters can respond to that and I think that women are going to send a real message not just for the governor's office, but also the state House and the Senate. Enough is enough," said Leader Beverly. "If we do that Georgia will change and I think we'll flip the House this year and we'll see, but we're knocking on the door right now."