In a huge defeat for Democrats in Georgia, the state Supreme Court on Wednesday reinstated a ban on abortions performed after six weeks, reversing – at least temporarily – a recent lower court ruling overturning the prohibition, as the Washington Post reports.
The decision came as the result of an emergency petition from the state requesting the reversal of a ruling issued last week issued by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney that negated the ban.
As ABC News noted, McBurney declared that Georgia's so-called "heartbeat bill" was no longer applicable law because it was enacted prior to the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization overturning the landmark abortion ruling in Roe v. Wade.
"At that time – the spring of 2019 – everywhere in America, including Georgia, it was unequivocally unconstitutional for governments – federal, state, or local – to ban abortions before viability," the judge wrote.
As such, McBurney continued, "Under Dobbs, [the ban] may someday become the law of Georgia, but only after our Legislature determines in the sharp glare of public attention that will undoubtedly and properly attend such an important and consequential debate whether the rights of unborn children justify such a restriction on women's right to bodily autonomy and privacy."
McBurney's ruling had the effect of returning abortion access in Georgia to a 22-week threshold, as the Post noted, but the state Supreme Court's decision re-implemented the six-week ban, effective immediately – at least for the time being.
The one-page state Supreme Court order issued on Wednesday pauses McBurney's ruling while a pending appeal is considered.
In response to the high court's ruling, a spokesperson for Georgia Republican Attorney General Chris Carr said, "We are pleased with the Court's action today," but added, "we are unable to provide further comment due to the pending appeal."
Pro-abortion groups, unsurprisingly, assailed the outcome, with Alice Wang of the Center for Reproductive Rights opining, according to the Post, "It is outrageous that this extreme law is back in effect, just days after being rightfully blocked."
"This legal ping pong is causing chaos for medical providers trying to do their jobs and for patients who are now left frantically searching for the abortion services they need," Wang added.
According to the Post, some commentators have suggested that the matter of abortion in Georgia is likely to be resolved judicially rather than legislatively, given a growing reluctance among lawmakers to prioritize the issue over concerns over economic conditions and rising crime.
Others have speculated that the state Supreme Court ruling could have an effect on the upcoming Senate runoff election between Democrat incumbent Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker, given the influence the issue appeared to have in numerous midterm contests earlier this month, but just how significant it ultimately is, only time will tell.