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October 2, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – U.S. District Judge Steve Jones ruled Tuesday that Georgia’s law banning most abortions on babies with detectable heartbeats will not take effect as planned next year, pausing the measure during litigation.

Signed into law in May, the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act forbids abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, except in cases of rape, incest, physical medical emergencies, and pregnancies deemed “medically futile.” If allowed to take effect, it will ban abortions in all other cases as early as six weeks into a pregnancy – when a baby’s heartbeat can be detected – starting in January 2020.

A direct challenge to Roe v. Wade’s prohibition against pre-“viability” abortion bans, the law has been a subject of intense national debate, with prosecutors declaring they’ll refuse to enforce it, and various celebrities and entertainment companies threatening to boycott the state.

The so-called American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), and Planned Parenthood have challenged the law’s constitutionality, and in July requested a preliminary injunction to keep the law from being implemented before the merits are decided in court. Jones granted that request Wednesday, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.

Jones wrote that the Supreme Court has “clearly defined” that “under no circumstances whatsoever may a state prohibit or ban abortions at any point prior to viability, no matter what interests the state asserts to support it,” and by “banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, HB 481 prohibits women from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy at a point before viability.”

Pro-abortion groups celebrated the ruling, while Georgia Life Alliance executive director Joshua Edmonds called it “yet another demonstration of judicial activism against an overwhelming majority of Georgians who support protecting innocent life.” He vowed to “continue to fight to prevent Planned Parenthood and the ACLU from turning back the clock on human rights in Georgia.”

The LIFE Act’s supporters, such as lead sponsor Rep. Ed Setzler, have defended the law by noting that Roe itself acknowledges, “if this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case, of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the Amendment. The appellant conceded as much on reargument.”

Pro-lifers across the country hope that the current wave of state heartbeat laws will force a long-awaited Supreme Court review of Roe, and that at least five of the current justices would vote to overturn it and finally free states to directly set their own abortion policies. Questions remain as to how Chief Justice John Roberts and the court’s newest member, Justice Brett Kavanaugh, will rule on abortion.

The office of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp says it is reviewing the ruling, and that they “remain confident in our position” and will “continue to fight for the unborn and work to ensure that all Georgians have the opportunity to live, grow and prosper.”