A judge is considering whether to block Georgia's new law that bans abortions after 20 weeks pending the outcome of a legal challenge after hearing arguments from both sides Thursday.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Doris Downs said she would decide by the end of next week whether to temporarily block the law from taking effect as scheduled on Jan. 1.
The law bans doctors from performing abortions five months after an egg is fertilized, except when doctors decide a fetus has a defect so severe it is unlikely to live. It also makes an exception to protect the life or health of the mother.
Under existing law, women can seek an abortion for any reason during the first six months of pregnancy. In the final three months, doctors can perform abortions only to protect the life or health of the mother.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia filed a lawsuit on behalf of three obstetricians challenging the law's constitutionality. The suit says the exceptions are too narrow and that doctors could face prison even when they are treating patients "in accordance to the best medical judgment." The ACLU also says the law violates privacy protections as provided for in the state constitution.
ACLU lawyer Alexa Kolbi Molinas argued that the law would cause "irreparable harm" to the health, lives and well-being of the doctors' patients. She also said the law allows the state to intrude into the most private details of patients' personal lives by allowing district attorneys seemingly unrestricted access to medical records.
The state argues that blocking the law from taking effect as scheduled would harm the state by going against the will of the General Assembly. Nels Peterson, a lawyer for the state, also argued that the ACLU's claims about the law allowing the state to intrude into patients' personal lives are unfounded because a Georgia statute on the books for nearly 40 years has already given district attorneys the rights in question.