September 2, 2022

Pictured from left, Dr. Tonja Jacobi, professor of law and Sam Nunn Chair in Ethics and Professionalism at Emory Law School; Emily J. Matson, partner, Matson & Matson and chair, Georgia Life Alliance; Helen Kim, founding partner, HKH Law LLC; Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia; and Derek Bauer, partner, BakerHostetler, counsel for Sherry Boston (DeKalb D.A.) in SisterSong v. Kemp.
Executive Director Andrea Young was among leaders from organizations at the forefront of the fight for reproductive rights who participated in a recent panel discussion on misunderstandings about Dobbs v. Jackson and its impact. Speakers asserted that clarity is needed around how the case is influencing abortion laws at the state level.

In characterizing the panel discussion, “Demystifying Dobbs v. Jackson: Its Legal and Health Ramifications in Georgia,” Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia (ACLU of Georgia), said attendants expressed dismay at the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to reverse a constitutional right that had been in place for 50 years. The move is uncommon in the history of the court.

Hosted by the Georgia Association for Women Lawyers, Young participated in the event as a panelist alongside local legal professionals. There was also a separate panel of health professionals who touched on real world impacts already happening in Georgia due to the change in law. The Georgia Hispanic Bar Association, the Georgia Association of Black Women Attorneys, the Women's Leadership Network of the Georgia Asian Pacific American Bar Association, and Veritext helped organize the event.

Dobbs v. Jackson centered on the constitutionality of a Mississippi law prohibiting abortions after the fifteenth week of pregnancy. Mississippi took the case to the Supreme Court. On June 24, 2022, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated the federal right to abortion.

Signed by Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019, the six-week abortion ban (H.B. 481) allows few exceptions. Abortions are allowed if a pregnant person faces serious harm or death in pregnancy, or in cases of rape or incest, but filing a police report is required. Georgia law previously allowed abortions until at least 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Discussed during the health panel portion of the event, experts pointed to confusion over the larger ramifications of the ban, which “negatively impacts women’s health more generally,” Young said. It creates additional barriers for typical healthcare including obtaining prescriptions. Pharmacists can challenge and question physicians about their prescribed medications—any medication that can be used to cause an abortion, even if it’s not for that purpose.

“It’s important that people are engaging in these issues. We’re still at the beginning of understanding how people’s lives will be impacted and will need to use all the tools at our disposal. People should vote with the issue of abortion at the front of their mind. The majority of Georgia voters do not believe Roe should have been overturned. Abortion is our right and by voting your values, we can ensure elected officials views reflect those of voters,” Young said.

An August poll commissioned by the ACLU of Georgia shows that Georgians are united in their support for the right to privacy. Nearly 90% of likely Georgia voters say privacy should be respected when it comes to making decisions about their bodies. They are similarly aligned in their responses to other questions related to the state’s six-week abortion law. Read more: "Press Release: New Poll Shows that Georgians Overwhelmingly Agree on Personal Privacy Rights."

Jerzy Shedlock (he/him) is a communications specialist at the ACLU of Georgia.