A Federal appeals court in Georgia Monday issued a stay in its review of the state’s currently inactive abortion law pending a decision by the U.S. Supreme Court on a similar case from Mississippi set for oral arguments Dec. 1 as this issue, which boiled over in Texas, heats up across the nation.
It’s a reminder that the fight in Georgia, a major film and television production hub, is not over. For now it’s been added to the pile of cases awaiting clarification from the high court when it rules on the first abortion case to really tests Roe v. Wade.
The Georgia law passed in 2019, banning abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected. There was an immediate outcry from Hollywood and threats from producers from Disney to Netflix on pulling out of the state if the law ever went into effect. It never did. Reproductive rights groups and the ACLU sued and a district court judge granted an injunction and ultimately struck it down, ruling in July of 2020 that it was unconstitutional.
Gov. Brian Kemp appealed the ruling, which was taken up by the United States Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit. The appeals court today stayed its review pending a decision by the Supreme Court on the Mississippi case, called United States in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
“The court’s stay means that Georgia’s abortion ban remains blocked until further notice from the court. Meanwhile, women will continue to be able to make their own healthcare decisions as U.S. Supreme Court precedent requires,” said Sean J. Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia.
The Georgia law sought to ban abortions once a “detectable human heartbeat” is present with limited exceptions or as early as six week, before most women realize they are pregnant.
The new Texas law de facto does the same thing but in a roundabout way. Instead of calling for state government officials to enforce the ban (which has no exceptions for rape, incest or the heath of the mother) it allows – even encourages – private citizens or groups to file civil suits against women who seek abortions and anyone who helps them, including Uber drivers. The law sets fines of $10,000 that can be collected by the individual who sues.
The Supreme Court with a 5-4 vote declined to block the law on procedural grounds, emphasizing that it was not opining on whether the statute is constitutional. It went into effect on Sept. 1 and has basically forced clinics to stop offering procedures after approximately six weeks of pregnancy.
The U.S Department of Justice sued the state of Texas over the law with a hearing set for Oct. 1.
And providers and other abortion rights organizations, in a request filed late last week, asked the High Court to grant a petition for a “certiorari before judgment” – a rarely used procedure where the high court would immediately review the decision of a district court without an appeal having been decided by a federal appellate court.
At least two lawsuits have been filed against a Texas doctor who performed an abortion prohibited and those cases may move to higher courts to test the statute, but providers say a resolution that way would take too long.
Hollywood has condemned the Texas law. Producer David Simon, creator of The Wire, said he won’t film an upcoming HBO project in the state as planned. “If an employer, this is beyond politics. I’m turning in scripts next month on an HBO non-fiction miniseries based on events in Texas, but I can’t and won’t ask female cast/crew to forgo civil liberties to film there. What else looks like Dallas/Ft. Worth?” he tweeted.
The Dallas Film & Creative Industries Office protested that, “Laws of a state are not reflective of its entire population. Not bringing a production to Dallas (a big “D”) only serves to further disenfranchise those that live here. We need talent/crew/creatives to stay & vote, not get driven out by inability to make a living.’
Uma Thurman, in an op-ed in the Washington Post, called the Texas law a staging ground for a human rights crisis for American women.”
Georgia had also come under fire from Hollywood and corporate America for restrictive voting laws this spring, also enacted in other Republican-led states. Voting rights activist Stacey Abrams urged companies not to boycott the state but stay and fight. Major Atlanta-based producer Tyler Perry agreed, saying in April, “As some consider boycotting please remember that we did turn Georgia blue and there is a gubernatorial race on the horizon – that’s the beauty of a democracy.”
Incumbent Republican Kemp has announced he’ll run for re-election in 2022. He’ll likely face a challenger backed by former President Donald Trump for refusing to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the state.
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