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Arguments continue today in lawsuit challenging Georgia's abortion law

Reproductive rights activists in downtown Athens one day after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, 2022.
Nicole Jordan
Reproductive rights activists in downtown Athens one day after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June, 2022.

Testimony continued today in Fulton County as a superior court judge hears arguments for and against Georgia’s restrictive abortion law.

The coalition of reproductive rights advocates and medical professionals who filed the lawsuit says that the law violates the state constitution’s right to privacy and liberty. Attorneys for the state, however, contend that an embryo is a “human life” and that the right to privacy doesn’t extend to abortion for that reason.

Among the witnesses testifying on Monday was Dr. Carrie Cwiak, a gynecology professor at Emory University’s School of Medicine. Cwiak told Judge Robert McBurney that the state’s abortion law causes distress for pregnant people and confusion for doctors, because of a lack of clarity about when medical providers can intervene in the case of an unviable fetus.

In a presentation earlier this month for Emory’s Medicine Grand Rounds, Cwiak told a group of doctors that unintended pregnancies are more common than many people think.

"45% of all pregnancies in the United States are unintended, and about half are among people already using contraception," Cwiak said. "So they're trying to prevent pregrancy."

In that lecture, Cwiak also noted some of the possible negative social outcomes for pregnant people who can’t get a wanted abortion.

"[They include' physical violence from the partner involved in the pregnancy, the person or their family falling below the federal poverty level, or the children that the pregnant person already has failing to achieve developmental milestones," Cwiak said.

Georgia’s law specifies that abortion is illegal after a embryonic or fetal cardiac activity is detected, which can be as soon as six weeks after conception, before many people know they are pregnant.

The law makes exceptions for situations where the life of the mother is in jeopardy, if the fetus is unviable, or in cases of rape and incest. However, in her testimony Monday, Cwiak contended that the law does not provide clarity or guidance for medical professionals.

Testimony in the lawsuit continued today, but Judge McBurney has said that he would not make a decision public until after election day on November 8.

Martin Matheny is WUGA's Program Director and a host and producer of our local news program 'Athens News Matters.' He started at WUGA in 2012 as a part-time classical music host and still hosts WUGA's longest-running local program 'Night Music' which is heard on WUGA and GPB Classical. He lives in Normaltown with his wife, Shaye and dog, Murphy.
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