Court upholds 20-week abortion ban, says state can’t be sued

[private]The Georgia Supreme Court has upheld the state law that prohibits most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, ruling that the state cannot be sued because of its sovereign immunity.

The justices unanimously upheld a Fulton County Superior Court judge’s 2016 ruling that dismissed a lawsuit filed by three obstetrician-gynecologists arguing that the abortion law was unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court dismissed that argument because the justices said the suit was wrongly filed against Gov. Nathan Deal and 19 other state officials in their “official capacity,” and the General Assembly had not granted the right to file such a lawsuit.

“Simply put, the constitutional doctrine of sovereign immunity forbids our courts to entertain a lawsuit against the State without its consent,” Justice Keith Blackwell said in the opinion.

“We hold today that the doctrine of sovereign immunity extends generally to suits against the State, its departments and agencies, and its officers in their official capacities for injunctive and declaratory relief from official acts that are alleged to be unconstitutional.”

If the State is threatening to enforce an unconstitutional law, citizens do not have the right to sue the State or the officers in their “official capacities” unless they have consent to do so, but they do have the right to sue the officers who are threatening to enforce the law in their “individual capacities,” the court said.

The lawsuit was filed in November 2012 by Eva Lathrop, Carrie Cwiak, and Lisa Haddad in an attempt to halt the enforcement of HB 954, a bill passed by the General Assembly in 2012 that put the 20-week ban into state law.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: abortion ban , Georgia Supreme Court , sovereign immunity