October 25, 2023

Georgia Supreme Court Upholds Heartbeat Law, Reversing Lower Court Decision

On October 24, the Georgia Supreme Court voted 6-1 to uphold a pro-life state law protecting unborn children from abortion after their heartbeats become detectable (six weeks gestation).

The Georgia  Supreme Court's decision reversed a decision by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who ruled Georgia's Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act was "unequivocally unconstitutional" because it was enacted in 2019 when Roe v. Wade was still precedent. The Georgia Supreme Court allowed the state to enforce its law while it considered the case on appeal.

Georgia Supreme Court Justice Verda Colvin wrote for the majority, “When the United States Supreme Court overrules its own precedent interpreting the United States Constitution, we are then obligated to apply the Court’s new interpretation of the Constitution’s meaning on matters of federal constitutional law.”

In his decision for the lower court, McBurney wrote that the LIFE Act could not become law because it was unconstitutional under the precedent of Roe v. Wade at the time it was enacted. The Georgia Supreme Court majority opinion noted that McBurney's decision was based on the "faulty premise" that the US Supreme Court changed the meaning of the US Constitution when it overturned Roe v. Wade.

The US Supreme Court cannot change the meaning of the Constitution. That can only be done via Constitutional amendment. The US Supreme Court only found that the Roe v. Wade decision was an incorrect interpretation of the existing Constitution.

The Georgia Supreme Court returned the case to McBurney to rule on the claim that the Georgia Constitution contains a "right to privacy" that would render the LIFE Act unconstitutional.