Abortion protestors march through Atlanta. (Courtesy Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder)

As we were going to press on our July issue, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. Fifty years of a woman’s constitutional right to choose an abortion erased in an instant.

At some point in July, Georgia’s so-called “heartbeat” law could go into effect. In 2019, legislators passed a bill outlawing abortion once a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat, which is usually about six weeks – before most women know they are pregnant.

A federal judge struck down Georgia’s law in 2020, but it went to an appeals court, where it’s been held up awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision.

The same day the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade, Georgia’s attorney general filed a motion in federal court to allow the state’s anti-abortion law to go into effect.

Attorneys on both sides have until July 15 to submit additional documents in the wake of the Supreme Court decision.

With abortion rights back in the hands of states, Georgia’s law will most likely go into effect before summer’s end. Despite Democratic gains in the 2020 election, the state is still controlled by Republicans who have been trying to repeal Roe v. Wade since 1973.

It remains to be seen if Democrats can mobilize voters to the polls in response to the Supreme Court decision. Some Republicans are concerned that the timing of the decision could lose them seats in the congressional elections this fall as the issue has galvanized Democrats. Polls still show that most Americans believe abortion should be a legal right across the nation.

Some House Republicans have floated a nationwide 15-week ban on abortions following the end of Roe v. Wade, but it’s not likely to get any traction, even though some states have already moved on total abortion bans.

For now, abortion is expected to remain legal in 27 states, but there is no uniform law.

For instance, Colorado, New Jersey, Oregon, and Delaware protect the right to abortion throughout pregnancy, but in Florida, a 15-week ban is set to go into effect in July. Republicans in other states, including Indiana, have called for special sessions to address abortion bans. 

And now that abortion has been stripped as a constitutional right, it appears other established rights could also be on the chopping block. Justice Clarence Thomas, widely considered the court’s most conservative jurist, included in his opinion that the court should reconsider other “demonstrably erroneous decisions,” including same-sex marriage, access to contraception, and sodomy. Interestingly, Thomas was silent on Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 case that legalized interracial marriage.

With the country still reeling from a presidency that ended with an insurrection to overturn a legitimate election, a pandemic, ongoing mass shootings like the 4th of July tragedy in Highland Park, a looming recession, and the suppression of voting rights – the Supreme Court’s ruling further undermines a house’s foundation that is already crumbling.

For all the conservative talk about “activist judges” in the courts, it seems that five have decided that precedent, established law, and the will of the people are no longer relevant when rendering decisions that continue to rip at the fabric of our democracy.

The solution is to demand your voting rights, then use them to vote out politicians guided by money, special interests, and radical ideology rather than the will of the electorate.

Vote, folks, vote.

Collin Kelley has been the editor of Atlanta Intown for two decades and has been a journalist and freelance writer for 35 years. He’s also an award-winning poet and novelist.