GEORGIA, USA — Georgia abortion providers are cautiously moving ahead with more leeway to carry out later term abortions after a court ruling Tuesday outlawed the state ‘heartbeat law.’
Although the heartbeat law is no longer legally enforceable in Georgia, abortion providers said the return to full abortion services won’t be immediate.
Before Georgia lawmakers passed the heartbeat bill in 2019, Georgia allowed abortion services under the terms of the 1973 US Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade.
When the Court overturned Roe earlier this year, the heartbeat bill became law which restricted abortions to about six weeks gestation.
Now that a court has overturned the heartbeat law, “it made physicians sigh. Maybe we can return to providing the care that patients deserve,” said Dr. Mimi Zieman, an OB/GYN.
Dr. Zieman was among those in 2019 who asked state lawmakers not to pass the heartbeat bill.
A Planned Parenthood spokeswoman said clinics have been able to return to providing medication abortions for up to eleven weeks’ gestation. But, logistical hurdles are preventing full abortion services, which are up to 20 weeks, from returning quickly. Longer term abortions often require invasive procedures in a clinic.
Dr. Zieman said Georgia abortion providers will get busy quickly.
“Currently, there’s very little access to abortion services across the southeast. I imagine if it’s permissible again in Georgia, that patients would travel from Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Tennessee — many neighboring states,” she said.
The court ruling opened the door for the legislature to pass the heartbeat bill again. It barely passed in the state House in 2019 by one vote. Pro-life lawmakers said they’re hoping higher courts will reinstate it instead.