A leading Georgia anti-abortion group wants abortion providers to be investigated for violating a law that, due to a clerical error, was in effect for seven months with nobody knowing it.
CNN reports that a Georgia judge dismissed an ACLU challenge to the state’s ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in October 2015 and lifted an injunction on the ban, thereby putting the new law into effect. But due to a clerical error, the ACLU was never notified and medical providers were not alerted that the law had gone into effect until seven months after the fact:
For nearly seven months, it has been illegal for physicians in Georgia to provide abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy — but almost no one knew it.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of the obstetricians in November 2012, challenging the measure on the grounds that it violates the right to privacy, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project Director Jen Dalven said. An injunction prevented the law from taking effect while the lawsuit was in play.
Fast forward to October 2015, when Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly M. Esmond Adams dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds of sovereign immunity, which bars citizens challenging the constitutionality of state law and protects state agencies from being sued in their official capacity unless the General Assembly waives that protection. The injunction was lifted and the ban was effectively in place.
Due to a clerical error, however, the ACLU said it was not notified and consequently missed a chance to appeal the ruling within 30 days. The organization only found out when a lawyer in another state noticed the order on the Fulton County Superior Court website and brought it to their attention, said Atlanta lawyer Don Samuel, who is representing the organization after the previous lawyer left.
CNN notes that “doctors, hospitals or clinics, or the public were not informed that the case had been dismissed, and that the law was in effect. Not even the Georgia Department of Public Health knew. In December 2015, the state agency sent a letter to abortion providers indicating the law was still enjoined by the courts and the injunction was still in effect.”
However, Georgia Right to Life, a group that broke with the National Right to Life Committee because of the national group’s willingness to accept some exemptions in abortion bans, wants abortion providers investigated for violating a law that nobody knew was in effect:
Gen Wilson with Georgia Right to Life said, “Dozens, if not hundreds, of babies between 20 and 24 weeks gestation were illegally killed” over the past several months.
Wilson, in a statement Thursday, urged the attorney general to conduct a criminal investigation of all abortion providers to determine whether charges should be filed.