“The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.” 

- U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor

 

SisterSong v Kemp:
ACLU Lawsuit Against Georgia’s Abortion Ban

On June 28, 2019, the ACLU, Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood filed SisterSong v. Kemp, a federal lawsuit on behalf of plaintiffs, including doctors, health care providers, and their patients challenging Georgia’s abortion ban. The law bans abortion as early as six weeks into pregnancy – before many people even know they are pregnant, and its scheduled to go into effect on January 1, 2020. We have filed this lawsuit to stop the ban from becoming law.


SisterSong is asking the courts to strike down Georgia’s abortion ban to ensure that all Georgians can continue to have the freedom to decide for themselves when to start or expand their families and to do so free from governmental interference.  

Georgia’s abortion ban – HB 481 – is blatantly unconstitutional under nearly 50 years of U.S. Supreme Court precedent. Every federal court that has heard a challenge to such a ban has struck it down. The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution has long protected our cherished right to privacy and liberty, and HB 481 threatens these basic American freedoms in violation of the constitution. 

SisterSong v Kemp intends to reaffirm the 1973 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision -- Roe v. Wade. SisterSong v. Kemp reaffirms women’s freedom to make their own healthcare decisions based on their own faith, family, and the advice of their doctors. 

If Georgia’s abortion ban legislation were to go into effect, the impact on the healthcare of women throughout the state would be devastating, because it

 

  • forces women to continue their pregnancies against their will, exposing many to serious health risks – such as heart attacks, stroke, or kidney damage –that they will be powerless to address, 

  • threatens OB/GYNs and other healthcare professionals with criminal penalties for providing standard-of-care treatments if a treatment poses any risk to an embryo, and 

  • interferes with standard-of-care treatment which will drive doctors out of Georgia which will create a devastating impact on women’s access to healthcare especially for low-income, rural, women of color – all of whom are already least able to access medical care. 

    • Half of Georgia’s counties have NO OB/GYN. 

    • Georgia’s maternal mortality rate is the second highest in the nation.

      • Maternal mortality for white women in Georgia is more than TWICE the national average for white women.

      • Maternal mortality for Black women in Georgia is SIX TIMES the national average for white women. 


The organizations bringing forward this lawsuit represent a wide-range of health providers, including SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, Feminist Women’s Health Center, Planned Parenthood Southeast, Inc., Atlanta Comprehensive Wellness Clinic, Atlanta Women’s Medical Center, FemHealth USA d/b/a carafem, Columbus Women’s Health Organization, P.C., Summit Medical Associates, P.C., Carrie Cwiak, M.D., M.P.H., Lisa Haddad, M.D., M.S., M.P.H., and Eva Lathrop, M.D., M.P.H.

The defendants in the case are Georgia Governor Brian Kemp, Attorney General Christopher M. Carr, Commissioner for the Department of Public Health Kathleen Toomey, the Executive Director and Members of the Georgia Composite Medical Board, and the District Attorneys for the counties where the plaintiffs provide medical care — all sued in their official capacities.

SisterSong v. Kemp was filed in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia, Atlanta Division. 

Georgia is one of several states that have passed laws banning abortion in 2019, representing an unprecedented surge of legislation designed to initiate a direct challenge to the 1973 landmark U.s. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade

Roe v Wade
Roe v Wade is the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that famously invalidated the Texas law in 1973 on the ground that the constitutional right to privacy encompasses a woman's decision whether or not to continue her pregnancy. 
 
The Court found that the state could not “override the rights of the pregnant woman” by “adopting one theory of life.” Characterizing this right as 'fundamental' to a woman's 'life and future,' the Court held that the state could not interfere with the abortion decision unless it had a compelling reason. 
 
Moreover, the Court concluded that a state could ban abortion only once the fetus became 'viable' (usually at the beginning of the last trimester of pregnancy), and even then a woman had to have access to an abortion if it were necessary to preserve her life or health. 
 
Doe v. Bolton  
In a companion case to Roe, Doe v. Bolton, which the ACLU argued before the Justices, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a Georgia law prohibiting abortions except when necessary to preserve a woman's life or health or in cases of fetal abnormality or rape. The Court held the Georgia law unconstitutional, because it imposed too many restrictions and interfered with a woman's right to decide, in consultation with her physician, to terminate her pregnancy.