Georgia’s Restrictive Abortion Ban Is The Latest ‘Fetal Pain’ Bill To Flounder In Court

In May, Georgia Governor Nathan Deal (R) signed a stringent 20-week abortion ban with no exception in cases of rape or incest. That law was scheduled to go into effect at the beginning of the new year — but thanks to a last-minute court ruling in the final days of 2012, women and doctors have been spared the harsh abortion restriction.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit to block the “fetal pain” law from taking effect, claiming that both doctors and women would suffer under the unnecessary restriction. Proponents of banning abortions after 20 weeks of gestation rely on the widely-disputed claim that fetuses can feel pain after that point, but the science doesn’t back them up. In reality, Georgia’s HB 954 is focused on preventing women from making their own decisions about when to terminate a pregnancy, as well as criminally prosecute the doctors who choose to provide their patients with the health care they need after the arbitrary cut-off. After hearing the ACLU’s arguments, Georgia Judge Doris Downs issued a temporary injunction to right before the Christmas holiday to block the law from taking effect this week.

Nevertheless, several other states — Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and North Carolina — have enacted 20-week abortion bans, and Texas may consider one in the new legislative session.

But Georgia isn’t the only state to run into legal roadblocks as it attempts to scale back women’s access to abortion. The ACLU also won a temporary injunction against Arizona’s stringent ban — considered the worst restriction in the nation, since it redefines the gestational period to outlaw abortions even before 20 weeks of pregnancy — while it is considered in court. Depending on the courts’ decisions in Georgia and Arizona, the so-called “fetal pain” laws in other states could also be at risk.

2012 was a banner year for new abortion restrictions, as 19 states passed 42 different provisions to restrict women’s access to reproductive health services. Imposing limits on later term abortions was one of the most popular methods that anti-choice lawmakers used to threaten abortion rights last year.