The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday overturned Roe v. Wade, the 1973 decision that had provided a constitutional right to abortion. The ruling is expected to lead to abortion bans in roughly half the states, although the timing of those laws taking effect varies.
Some Republican-led states will ban or severely limit abortion immediately, while other restrictions will take effect later. At least one state, Texas, is waiting until after the Supreme Court issues its formal judgment in the case, which is separate from the opinion issued Friday and could take about a month.
In anticipation of the decision, several states led by Democrats have taken steps to protect abortion access. The decision also sets up the potential for legal fights between the states over whether providers and those who help women obtain abortions can be sued or prosecuted
Political control: Georgia has a Republican legislature and governor who support abortion restrictions, but all are up for election this November. Republicans are likely to retain legislative control, but there’s a possibility a Democrat could become governor.
Background: Georgia lawmakers in 2019 passed a law by one vote that would ban most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, when fetal cardiac activity can be detected. The measure is unlike other “heartbeat” bills in that it also contains language designating a fetus as a person for certain state-law purposes such as income tax deductions and child support. The measure is on hold before the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court in the Mississippi case.
Effect of Supreme Court ruling: The 11th Circuit is likely to allow the six-week ban to take effect relatively quickly, having already heard oral arguments in the case, although there could be fresh legal challenges. That would ban the large majority of abortions that currently take place in Georgia – about 87% according to providers. The change could happen in the middle of tightly contested races in Georgia for governor and U.S. Senate. Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and challenger for governor Stacey Abrams say they want to secure abortion rights. Republican Senate challenger Herschel Walker and incumbent Republican Gov. Brian Kemp support restrictions.
What’s next: Some Republican lawmakers and candidates want Georgia to go further and ban abortion entirely, but Kemp is unlikely to call a special session before this November’s general election. Lawmakers are likely to consider further action when they return for their annual session in January. The Legislature or courts will have to sort out whether the provisions designating a fetus as a person are workable.