The Georgia Supreme Court threw out a lawsuit challenging an abortion law that the Anti-Defamation League believes violates the Georgia Constitution, but the ADL found cause for optimism in the ruling.
In a decision issued Monday, June 19, in the 2012 case of Lathrop vs. Deal, the court found that the doctrine of sovereign immunity barred the plaintiffs from suing Gov. Nathan Deal and 19 other state officials to block the law, a wide-ranging ban on abortion after the 20-week mark in pregnancy.
The ADL signed on to a friend-of-the-court brief written by the law firm of Bondurant Mixson & Elmore and joined by the Southern Center for Human Rights, GeorgiaCarry.Org and the Goldwater Institute, organizations that don’t often stand on the same side of legal debates.
“While this case involves reproductive rights, the court’s decision is critically important for any Georgian who wants to challenge the constitutionality of a state law,” said Shelley Rose, the interim ADL Southeast regional director.
The abortion ban’s narrow medical exception does not cover certain forms of cancer and other diseases, mental illness or severe fetal anomalies, nor does it allow exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking.
The physician plaintiffs in the case challenged the law under the Georgia Constitution’s due process, freedom of conscience, inherent rights and equal protection provisions.
Although the Supreme Court dismissed the case, it found that the plaintiffs could try again if they sued to stop individual officials from enforcing the law, under the theory that they are barred from enforcing an unconstitutional law and thus would be acting outside their official capacity if they tried to do so.
“ADL firmly believes it violates the Georgia Constitution,” Rose said about the abortion ban. “Based on today’s decision, we are hopeful that the plaintiffs will refile their challenge to the law and it will be struck down on constitutional grounds.”