ATLANTA, December 3, 2012, (LifeSiteNews.com) – The Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit on Friday to block enforcement of the state’s fetal pain-based abortion ban.

The law, which is set to take effect January 1, forbids abortions after 20 weeks gestation, with limited exceptions for medical emergencies. 

The only late-term abortions approved under the law would be to save the life of the mother, to prevent “irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function” in the mother, or if the baby has a congenital or chromosomal defect that means almost certain death after birth.

The lawsuit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court, was filed on behalf of three doctors by the ACLU. 

Debbie Seagraves, executive director of ACLU Georgia, said they are suing because they believe the law is a violation of Georgia’s constitutional privacy protections, and will limit doctors’ ability to provide women with abortions in serious but non-emergent situations.

“It’s unconstitutional on its face,” Seagraves said. “It sets a pre-viability date that’s an arbitrary date. There’s no reason for it. It requires a doctor to make a judgment call that may or may not be in the best interest of their patient.”

Dan Becker, president of Georgia Right to Life, welcomed the ACLU’s lawsuit.  “We would welcome a (court) challenge simply because this provides the opportunity to place additional restrictions on abortion,” he said. “It would be a challenge to Roe v. Wade.”

Roe forbids all restrictions on abortions prior to viability, which is later than 20 weeks.

But Dana Cody of Life Legal Defense Foundation told LifeSiteNews.com she was less certain about the law’s potential national implications.  “Abortion proponents act like any sort of protection measure is going to overturn Roe,” she said.

Supporters of the ban deny the 20-week limit is arbitrary.  The law was written based on medical research showing that the body’s pain network — the spino-thalamic pathway — is formed by 20 weeks gestation.  Many doctors, including the late renowned neurosurgeon Robert White, maintain that babies in the womb begin to feel pain as early as 20 weeks into their development.

Dr. White said during the national debate over partial-birth abortion (which was later banned) that an unborn baby at 20 weeks gestation “is fully capable of experiencing pain.”

“Without question, [abortion] is a dreadfully painful experience for any infant subjected to such a surgical procedure,” he said.

Abortions after 20 weeks can be brutally violent.  The child at that stage of development must be cut into pieces before removal – either while still alive, or after being poisoned with a saline solution.

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Cody expressed disbelief that people could be callous enough to oppose the fetal-pain law.  “Whether you believe [the fetus] is a child or not,” she said, “it’s a living being that can feel pain.  Why would you not want to limit the pain?  If this were a dog or a horse and they were being exterminated and feeling pain, people would be going berserk.” 

Cody predicts the Supreme Court won’t address the constitutionality of fetal pain laws unless multiple lower courts make contradictory rulings on the issue. 

So far, that hasn’t happened.  Six other states —  Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma – have fetal pain laws similar to Georgia’s.  North Carolina also restricts abortion at 20 weeks, but does not cite fetal pain as the reason.

Not one of the laws has been successfully challenged in the courts.