November 17, 2022

Activist Georgia Judge Strikes Down Heartbeat Law for Odd Reason

When the US Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade earlier this year in its Dobbs v. Jackson decision, it returned complete power to the states to set their own abortion policies. Some activist judges are still coming up with reasons to block pro-life laws, however. Some are ruling that state constitutions contain implied abortion rights (much like the US Supreme Court decided for the national constitution in its 1973 Roe decision). Georgia Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney came up with a completely new reason to block his state's heartbeat law that didn't even require him to find the law to be unconstitutional.

Georgia's LIFE Act prohibits the abortion of an unborn child whose heartbeat is detectable (six weeks). The law contains exceptions for rape, incest, medical emergencies, and pregnancies deemed "medically futile."

By Judge McBurney's own admission, Georgia's LIFE Act is constitutional. If the Georgia legislature were to pass the same law today, McBurney says that it would be enforceable. The judge still blocked the LIFE Act because it was passed at a time when Roe v. Wade was the US Supreme Court precedent.

McBurney argues that such a law is not valid unless the 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.”

It seems unlikely that a law can be blocked because a judge deems the public was not paying sharp enough attention to its passage. It also seems unlikely that the time a law was passed has a greater bearing on a law's validity than the constitutionality of its content. Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr also seemed to think so, telling the AP that his office would seek an "immediate appeal."