Georgia high court rejects challenge to 20-week abortion ban

June 19, 2017 by Kate Brumback

Georgia's highest court on Monday rejected a challenge to a state law banning most abortions after 20 weeks, saying the courts are barred from considering lawsuits against the state without the state's consent.

The 2012 law bans doctors from performing abortions five months after an egg is fertilized, except when a fetus has a defect so severe it is unlikely to live. The law also makes an exception to protect the life or health of the mother, but not for cases of rape or incest.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the measure on behalf of three obstetricians. It said the law violates state privacy protections and argued the exceptions are too narrow and that doctors could face prison even when treating patients "in accordance to the best medical judgment."

The lawsuit sought to stop enforcement of the law by challenging its constitutionality and was filed against Gov. Nathan Deal and other state officials in their official capacities.

The concept of sovereign immunity shields the state and state agencies from being sued in their official capacity unless the state waives that protection, Justice Keith Blackwell wrote in the unanimous opinion. But he added, "we recognize the availability of other means by which aggrieved citizens may obtain prospective relief from threatened enforcement of unconstitutional laws."

Since the state officers were sued in their official capacities, the lawsuit is considered to target the state itself and citizens don't have that right without the state's consent, Blackwell wrote. Citizens do, however, generally have the right to sue state officers in their individual capacities if those officials are pursuing official actions that are alleged to be unconstitutional.

That means the obstetricians could pursue a lawsuit against the state officers in their individual capacities, the opinion says. The high said in a footnote that lawsuits against individual state officers may be less convenient than suing the state and suggested the state General Assembly could fix that "by enacting a statutory waiver of sovereign immunity for suits like this one."

A lawyer who argued the case for the ACLU did not immediately respond to an email Monday seeking comment on the ruling.

The ACLU filed the on Nov. 30, 2012, about a month before the law was to take effect. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Doris Downs entered an order about three weeks later putting the law on hold until the legal challenge could be resolved.

Ultimately, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly Esmond Adams, who had taken over the case, ruled in May 2016 that the suit was barred by sovereign immunity and the ACLU appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Explore further: Judge temporarily blocks Ga. abortion law

Related Stories

Judge temporarily blocks Ga. abortion law

December 24, 2012
(AP)—A state judge has suspended a Georgia law banning abortions for women who are more than 20 weeks pregnant.

Indiana sued over ultrasound 18 hours before abortion rule

July 7, 2016
The American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana is challenging a new state requirement that women get an ultrasound at least 18 hours before they have an abortion.

OxyContin maker asks judge to toss case brought by city

March 21, 2017
The maker of the pain medication OxyContin has asked a federal judge in Seattle to throw out a Washington city's lawsuit that seeks to hold the drugmaker responsible for allowing its pills to flood the black market and into ...

Supreme Court sympathetic to Microsoft in Xbox owners' suit (Update)

March 21, 2017
The Supreme Court suggested Tuesday that it is sympathetic to Microsoft Corp. in a dispute with disgruntled owners of the Xbox 360 video-game system who sued saying the console has a design defect that scratches game discs.

California appeals court rejects right-to-die lawsuit

October 29, 2015
A California appeals court on Thursday rejected a lawsuit by three terminally ill patients that sought to clear the way for doctors to prescribe fatal medication to them and others like them who want the option of taking ...

US appeals court rules against strict state abortion law

July 22, 2015
A U.S. appeals court affirmed a ruling Wednesday that struck down one of the strictest anti-abortion laws in the country: a North Dakota law that bans abortions when a fetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early ...

Recommended for you

In helping smokers quit, cash is king, e-cigarettes strike out

May 23, 2018
Free smoking cessation aids, such as nicotine patches and chewing gum, are a staple of many corporate wellness programs aimed at encouraging employees to kick the habit. But, new research shows that merely offering such aids ...

What makes us well? Diversity, health care, and public transit matter

May 23, 2018
Diverse neighbors. Health centers. Commuter trains. These community attributes, and other key factors, are linked to well-being and quality of life, according to Yale researchers.

Time spent sitting at a screen matters less if you are fit and strong

May 23, 2018
The impact of screen time on cardiovascular disease, cancer incidence and mortality may be greatest in people who have lower levels of grip-strength, fitness and physical activity, according to a study published in the open ...

Widely used e-cigarette flavoring impairs lung function

May 23, 2018
A new study has found that a common e-cigarette flavoring that has chemical characteristics similar to toxic chemicals found in cigarette smoke disrupts an important mechanism of the lungs' antibacterial defense system. The ...

Study: Strenuous exercise in adolescence may ward off height loss later in life

May 23, 2018
A new study has identified several key factors in postmenopausal women that are associated with height loss, a common occurrence in this age group that is known to increase the risk for death and disease.

Early physical therapy benefits low-back pain patients

May 22, 2018
Patients with low-back pain are better off seeing a physical therapist first, according to a study of 150,000 insurance claims.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.