Americans no longer have the constitutionally protected right to an abortion, the Supreme Court ruled Friday, ending nearly half a century of protection for access to abortion services. 

The decision will upend abortion policies across the country, including Georgia, where the state’s strict six-week abortion ban is pending in court.

A draft opinion leaked in May foreshadowed what advocates for abortion rights have feared: the Constitutional right to abortion was in jeopardy under the highest court being stacked with conservative justices.

On Friday, the justices stripped federal protections established in the 1973 Roe v Wade decision in a 6-3 vote.

“The Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled,” Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the decision. “The authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”

Georgia Republicans cheered the decision, a landmark ruling overturning nearly 50 years of precedent and restricting women of their right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. 

Gov. Brian Kemp called the ruling “a historic victory for life.” 

“I look forward to its impact on the legal proceeding surrounding Georgia’s LIFE Act and hope our law will be fully implemented and ultimately protect countless unborn lives here in the Peach State,” Kemp said.

Georgia’s so-called “heartbeat bill” that passed in 2019 is still tied up in a federal district court of appeals. The law would ban most abortions once a doctor could detect fetal cardiac activity with an ultrasound — usually around six weeks into pregnancy.

Judges heard oral arguments in September but were wary to push the case forward as the Supreme Court was set to take up Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, a case from Mississippi that bans most abortions after 15 weeks. 

The Peach State does not have a so-called “trigger law” on the books, so the state’s abortion law will still need to be addressed in court, but will likely be upheld.

Hours after the decision was released, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr sent a notice to the 11th District Court of Appeals asking it to reverse its decision in the case and allow the abortion law to immediately take effect.

Surrounding states like Alabama, South Carolina and Tennessee are also expected to move quickly to ban abortions or increase restrictions, according to the Guttmatcher Institute, a leading research and policy organization committed to advancing sexual and reproductive rights.  

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams addressed the news on an afternoon call with reporters. She said it’s likely a matter of weeks before women in Georgia will face extreme abortion restrictions under the state’s six-week ban.

“If you are a woman in Georgia, you should be terrified right now,” she said.

“We live in a state where half of our counties do not have an OBGYN,” she said. “We have a broken health care system. We are underfunded. We are underserved. And the women in the state of Georgia are about to be under assault.”

If elected, Abrams still faces the obstacle of working with a Republican-held state legislature that has enacted conservative and controversial policies surrounding abortions, elections and transgender rights.

However, an Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll taken in January showed that 68% of Georgians opposed Roe v. Wade being overturned.

House Speaker David Ralston, who leads the chamber in the state legislature, also praised Friday’s decision. 

“Today’s historic decision by the U.S. Supreme Court protects the role of federalism by returning ‘authority to the people and their elected representatives’ as the Constitution demands,” he said in a statement to GPB News. “The State of Georgia, and our House of Representatives, has long championed the rights of the unborn dating back to the Fetal Pain Bill in 2012 and the LIFE Act in 2019.”

The Supreme Court’s decision will shape campaigns in Georgia in the coming months before the crucial general election in November — especially whether or not Republican candidates would support abortion exceptions for incest or rape.

Trump-endorsed Republican candidate for U.S. Senate, football star Herschel Walker, said the Supreme Court decision gives abortion control back to state leaders “where it belongs.” 

“I won’t apologize for erring on the side of life,” he said in a statement and has previously said he would support a total ban on abortions.

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock, a Democrat who is up for reelection and will face Walker, called the Supreme Court’s decision “misguided” and “devastating for women.”

“The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade ends a core protection for women to make their own health care decisions, and is a departure from our American ideals to recognize and protect basic rights,” Warnock said. “This misguided decision is devastating for women and families in Georgia and nationwide.”

U.S. Supreme Court

People protest about abortion, Friday, June 24, 2022, outside the Supreme Court in Washington.

Credit: (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

‘Women will die’

Georgia Democrats reacted with horror and outrage. 

In Washington, U.S. Rep. Nikema Williams joined dozens of House members in a march to the steps of the Supreme Court to join thousands of protesters gathered there.

“There's a few thousand people in front of the Supreme Court, lots of security,” Williams told GPB News. “Capitol Police escorted a group of us over to let us know that they could take us over and keep us safe during our moment to express ourselves in front of the Supreme Court. But today is a very emotional day in D.C.”

Williams, who formerly lobbied for Planned Parenthood in the Southeast, said the news is an opportunity to mobilize voters to take to the ballot box.

“I live in a country now where I have fewer rights than my mom and my grandmother had,” she said. “So we have an obligation to use our power at this time and to stand up and elect people who are going to stand on the side of the people of this country.”

House lawmakers already passed the “Women's Health Protection Act” to codify federal abortions protections, but the legislation failed in the Senate.

Many Democrats also pointed to the potential impact the ruling will have on Georgia’s startlingly high rates of maternal mortality — particularly for Black women. 

U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bordeaux put it plainly: “Women will die because of this decision.” She also warned of nearly “immediate consequences” when the state’s strict abortion ban goes into effect.

“This means women and doctors can face criminal prosecution over seeking life-saving medical care,” she said in a statement. “Women in Georgia are more likely to die as a result of complications with childbirth than in any other state in the nation, and HB 481 will only make this worse.”

Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, too, pointed to the disproportionate impact the ruling will have on Georgians of color.

“Make no mistake: This ruling will most grotesquely impact women of color and those who do not have the resources to travel to find safe and high-quality health care,” he said in a statement.

The Atlanta City Council has already preemptively taken steps to address how Georgia’s largest metropolitan city will respond to the ruling. Local officials passed a resolution out of committee that requires Atlanta police to treat abortion crimes as “lowest priority” and bans city funds from being used to track and record where abortions are taking place. It awaits a full council vote.

Former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, who recently announced she has taken on a position with the Biden administration, also weighed in.

“For all but two years of my life, a woman has had the right to choose what to do with her body,” she said on social media, “that is until today. A lifetime of freedom is now gone.”