Georgia's Supreme Court has upheld the state's ban on abortion after six weeks, when a baby typically develops a heartbeat.
The ruling is the latest blow to abortion access since the end of Roe v. Wade remade the legal landscape.
The U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe last year, returning the issue to state governments and allowing restrictions that had been blocked to take effect.
Fulton County Superior Court judge Robert McBurney had blocked Georgia's six-week ban from being enforced in November. He said the 2019 ban was void because it was enacted when Roe was still on the books.
The state's Supreme Court then allowed the ban to take effect while it considered the appeal. The court ultimately overturned McBurney's ruling in a 6-1 decision, arguing that the repeal of Roe did not alter the Constitution, but merely clarified how judges should interpret its meaning.
The Constitution "means today what it meant when" the ban was enacted, Justice Verda Colvin wrote for the majority. Therefore, Georgia's abortion ban was legal when it became law.
"When the United States Supreme Court overrules its own precedent interpreting the United States Constitution, we are then obligated to apply the Court’s new interpretation of the Constitution’s meaning on matters of federal constitutional law,” she wrote.
The Georgia Supreme Court's ruling was hailed by Republican governor Brian Kemp, who signed the ban, and various pro-life groups.
Litigation is not over. The left is challenging the abortion law on the grounds that it violates the right to privacy. The courts will consider that issue next.
Since Roe ended, Republicans have been conflicted on how to navigate the politics of abortion, which has paid dividends for Democrats in recent elections.
The White House wasted no time denouncing Georgia's Supreme Court, calling its ruling part of a Republican war on women.
"Women have been denied the medical care they desperately need to preserve their health, including being turned away from emergency rooms, forced to travel hundreds of miles for care and faced complications that make it more difficult to have children in the future,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.
Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, one of the plaintiffs, said the ban would force women to travel long distances to get abortions.
“This abortion ban has forced Georgians to travel across state lines at great expense or continue the life-altering consequences of pregnancy and childbirth against their wills,” she said in a statement.