The abortion ruling no one knew about: Georgia's 20-week ban

A law passed by the Georgia Legislature reduced the window for abortions from 24 weeks to 20.

(CNN)For nearly seven months, it has been illegal for physicians in Georgia to provide abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy -- but almost no one knew it.

Now, everyone is on the same page and lawyers for three obstetricians are appealing a ruling upholding the law.
Gov. Nathan Deal signed into law the Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in 2012. The law reduced the legal time limit for abortions from 24 weeks to 20, based on the medically debated claim that fetuses can feel pain after 20 weeks.
    The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit on behalf of the obstetricians in November 2012, challenging the measure on the grounds that it violates the right to privacy, ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project Director Jen Dalven said. An injunction prevented the law from taking effect while the lawsuit was in play.
    Fast forward to October 2015, when Fulton County Superior Court Judge Kimberly M. Esmond Adams dismissed the lawsuit on the grounds of sovereign immunity, which bars citizens challenging the constitutionality of state law and protects state agencies from being sued in their official capacity unless the General Assembly waives that protection. The injunction was lifted and the ban was effectively in place.
    Due to a clerical error, however, the ACLU said it was not notified and consequently missed a chance to appeal the ruling within 30 days. The organization only found out when a lawyer in another state noticed the order on the Fulton County Superior Court website and brought it to their attention, said Atlanta lawyer Don Samuel, who is representing the organization after the previous lawyer left.
    "There's no good explanation for what happened, but nobody thinks it's anything sinister," he said. "This is what happens when you underfund the court system."
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