(Bloomberg) -- A judge will hear arguments challenging Georgia's "heartbeat" abortion ban just two weeks before the November midterm elections, rejecting a request from the state that the hearing be delayed until after the vote.
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Abortion has become a key issue in the state's highly-watched race between Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams, who is hammering Kemp on his support for the law which prohibits most abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected --at around six weeks, when many women would not yet know they're pregnant.
Kemp championed the law at the legislature and signed it in 2019, but it did not go into effect until the US Supreme Court struck down Roe V. Wade in June. Kemp has touted it as the toughest abortion law in the US, although he is not talking about it on the campaign trail.
Abortion-rights groups and the American Civil Liberties Union sued in July, arguing the law violates the right to privacy in violation of the state's constitution.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney was biting in his ruling denying the state's request.
"The State has filed a motion seeking to either 'cancel' (not a term of civil procedure with which the Court is familiar) or postpone the trial," McBurney wrote. "The State has offered four reasons for this 'cancellation,' which can be summarized as 'We are really busy with other things,' 'There are no facts in dispute,' 'We don't know what facts are in dispute' and 'You can't do what you are trying to do.'
"The Court's response, detailed below, can be summarized as 'Who isn't?,' 'There are,' 'You do,' and 'I can,'" McBurney wrote.
The hearings are scheduled for Oct. 24 and Oct. 25.
"We respect the Judge's decision, and we will continue to fulfill our duty to defend the laws of our state in court," said Kara Richardson, spokeswoman for Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr.
Monica Simpson, executive director of SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, lead plaintiff in the suit against the state, applauded the ruling.
"We're relieved that Governor Kemp and his extremist allies will soon have to account in court for forcing Georgians to carry pregnancies against their will and suffer the life-altering, and sometimes life-threatening, impacts," Simpson said in an emailed statement.
Neither the Kemp nor the Abrams campaigns returned requests for comment.
Abortion also took center stage this week in the race between Democratic US Senator Raphael Warnock and Republican Herschel Walker, who opposes the procedure with no exceptions. On Monday, the Daily Beast published an article about a woman who said she had a relationship with Walker and became pregnant. The woman said Walker sent her a $700 check so she could have an abortion. Walker denies the claims.
McBurney is also the judge handling disputes involving the special-purpose grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump's attempt to overturn the 2020 election, including his call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger asking him to find more Trump votes, the submission of a false document that named Trump electors to the National Archives and lies spread in hearings before the legislature. Kemp also received calls from Trump and his allies at the time.
McBurney once suggested that Rudy Giuliani take an Uber to Atlanta, after the former mayor tried to delay testifying in that probe because he said his health prevented him from flying.
He did allow Kemp to delay testimony in that case until after the election.
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