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State's heartbeat abortion law won't be paused during latest court challenge, ACLU says

The law essentially makes abortions illegal just two weeks after becoming pregnant.

ATLANTA — After mulling on it for several days, a Fulton County Superior Court judge denied a request to block Georgia's six-week "heartbeat" abortion law as legal challenges continue in the courts, the ACLU announced Monday. 

The law essentially makes abortions illegal just two weeks after a person misses their last period. 

An initial hearing was held Aug. 8, after the ACLU and a group of doctors filed a lawsuit in July, and was heard before Judge Robert C. I. McBurney.  

McBurney has now allowed the law to stand.

He stressed that his decision did not touch on the merits of the case, which will continue.

“The question of whether it is constitutional for the State to force a woman to carry to term a six-week-old embryo against her wishes, even in the face of serious medical risk, remains to be answered,” he wrote.

Georgia’s law was passed by state lawmakers and signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019 but it had been blocked from taking effect. The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed the state to begin enforcing it last month, just over three weeks after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which had protected the right to an abortion for nearly 50 years.

The law bans most abortions once a “detectable human heartbeat” is present. Cardiac activity can be detected by ultrasound in cells within an embryo that will eventually become the heart as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That means most abortions in Georgia are effectively banned at a point before many women know they are pregnant.

The law includes exceptions for rape and incest, as long as a police report is filed, and allows for later abortions when the mother’s life is at risk or a serious medical condition renders a fetus unviable.

-- The Associated Press contributed to this report

This is a developing story. Check back often for new information.

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