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Judge strikes down state's abortion ban

ATLANTA — A federal judge has blocked a Georgia law from taking effect that would ban most abortions after a heartbeat is detected, marking a pivotal decision in a case that has enflamed passions in the state for more than a year.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Steve Jones approved a permanent injunction of the law sought by several pro-choice groups in June 2019, shortly after the General Assembly passed legislation to impose the restrictive abortion ban.

Jones’ ruling follows the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier this month that struck down a restrictive abortion law in Louisiana. Previously, Jones said he planned to await an outcome in that case before issuing his own order.

Jones handed down a single-paragraph ruling Monday that found the law to be in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment equal-protection clause.

Backers of the push to overturn Georgia’s abortion law hailed the court ruling Monday as a win for the right-to-choose movement, calling it a repudiation of governmental overreach in reproductive issues.

“This moves us further into the future we all want to live in,” said Monica Simpson, executive director of the nonprofit SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective.

“No one deserves to live in a country where their bodies or their reproductive decision-making are dictated by the state.”

Gov. Brian Kemp’s office quickly pledged to appeal the ruling, potentially setting up a future U.S. Supreme Court battle.

“Georgia values life, and we will keep fighting for the rights of the unborn,” said Cody Hall, the governor’s press secretary.

Georgia’s law on abortions would have been among the most restrictive in the country had it been allowed to take effect at the start of this year.

It would have banned all abortions in the state before a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks. Certain exceptions would have been permitted such as for medical emergencies.

Legislation creating the abortion ban passed out of the General Assembly in March 2019 by partisan margins and following fierce debate on both sides of the aisle.

Several groups, including SisterSong and Planned Parenthood, filed suit after the bill’s passage, arguing it posed an unconstitutional violation of women’s reproductive rights set in the Supreme Court’s landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade case.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Georgia branch, which represented the suing groups, noted a separate federal court also struck down an abortion ban in Tennessee on Monday.

Drug Unit K9 officer 'Jax' to receive protective armor

ALBANY — Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit K9 Officer Jax will receive a bullet- and stab- protective vest thanks to a charitable donation from the nonprofit organization Vested Interest in K9s Inc., the drug unit announced.

K9 Jax’s vest is sponsored by Joan Magnani of Brooklyn, N.Y., and will be embroidered with the sentiment “Honoring those who served and sacrificed.” Delivery is expected within eight to 10 weeks.

K9 Jax is a 2-year-old Belgian Malinois/German Shepard mix. Jax was born in Holland and came to the United States in February of 2020. He joined the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit in March of 2020. Jax is certified through NNDDA (National Narcotic Detector Dog Association) for narcotics detection. He is also trained in human tracking. Jax has been described as an asset to the Albany-Dougherty Drug Unit in that his skills will be tested daily and he will be rewarded for his hard work and dedication.

Vested Interest in K9s Inc., established in 2009, is a 501(c)(3) charity whose mission is to provide bullet and stab protective vests and other assistance to dogs of law enforcement and related agencies throughout the United States. This potentially life-saving body armor for four-legged K9 officers is U.S. made, custom-fitted, and NIJ certified. Since its inception, Vested Interest in K9s has provided more than 3,970 vests to K9s in all 50 states at a value of $6.9 million, made possible by both private and corporate donations.

The program is open to U.S. dogs that are at least 20 months old, actively employed and certified with law enforcement or related agencies. K9s with expired vests are also eligible to participate. There are an estimated 30,000 law enforcement K9s throughout the United States.

Vested Interest in K9s accepts tax-deductible contributions in any amount, while a single donation of $960 will sponsor one vest. Each vest has a value of $1,744-$2,283, weighs an average of 4-5 pounds, and comes with a five-year warranty.

For more information, or to learn about volunteer opportunities, call (508) 824-6978. Vested Interest in K9s Inc. provides information, lists events, and accepts donations at, or contributions may be mailed to P.O. Box 9, East Taunton, Mass. 02718.

Trolls, dinosaurs coming to the screen for weekend drive-in movies

ALBANY — A weekend drive-in movie event will offer a chance for the area’s parents and children to participate in a slice of normalcy in what has to be the most unusual summer of their lives.

The Flint River Entertainment Complex and the Albany Boys & Girls Clubs are teaming up to bring two nights of movies on Friday and Saturday. On Friday night, the offering is the 2016 film “Trolls,” and “Jurassic Park” will be the Saturday offering.

“We are partnering with Flint River Entertainment to give our community the opportunity to get out and provide them with entertainment while social distancing,” said Samala Carrington, director of resource development and marketing with the local Boys & Girls Clubs. “Come out and watch with the kids. We do want kids to know we are looking out for them to get out while social distancing.”

Tickets are $30 per car, and can be purchased online at Attendees are asked to remain in cars except to use the restroom or purchase food and drinks.

The movies also are a way to thank parents and is the last event for the summer recreation program, Carrington said.

Albany and southwest Georgia were among the earlier hot spots for COVID-19, which has killed 156 Dougherty County residents, and the drive-in concept was a concept that offered a safer means of getting parents and their children out for some fun.

“Even though it was a limited (summer) program this year, we wanted to give people an opportunity to be social, without being social, if you know what I mean,” Carrington said of the in-car format. “We thought it would be an opportunity for people to be together and not exposed (to) COVID-19 as long as cars are at a distance. We’re focusing on social distancing while still providing a fine family event.”

If the drive-in movies prove popular, the Boys & Girls Clubs will look at more of them in the future. Other cities were holding drive-in nights prior to the emergence of the novel coronavirus and they had success doing so, Carrington said.

“Since other cities are doing drive-in movies, I think it will become a staple in our community” she said.

Ticket holders also can purchase a $20 concession pack in advance that includes a large popcorn, two candies and four bottled Coca-Cola drink products.

Gates open at the 100 Oglethorpe Blvd. complex at 7 p.m. both nights, with features starting at 9:15 p.m.

For additional information, visit

Artesian Alliance 'in' with coronavirus safety pledge

ALBANY — The Artesian Alliance, and its three component attractions, is making a promise to adhere to a statewide safety initiative aimed at slowing the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The alliance, which includes Chehaw Park and Zoo, the Flint RiverQuarium and Thronateeska Heritage Center, is joining businesses across the state in taking the “I’m In” Georgia Safety Promise.

“The Artesian Alliance member organizations are proud to make the Georgia Safety Promise and display the signage with pride to help keep Georgia and the community safe, working and open for business,” the organization said in a Tuesday news release. “This safety campaign is a simple agreement, made by both businesses and the public, to take basic steps to protect each other.’”

The Artesian Alliance will follow safety guidelines from Gov. Brian Kemp’s office and the Georgia Department of Public Health to operate safely during the COVID-19 pandemic, including social distancing, wearing face masks, cleaning surfaces and hand washing and sanitizing. The “I’m In” logo will be displayed on printed materials at the three locations.

“’We’re in’ to reopen safely,” said Tommy Gregors, executive director for the three organizations. “Unless we all agree to look out for each other, we can’t stay ahead of this virus. We are also proud to help put a spotlight on our community as we all seek to reopen safely so we can stay open for business in Georgia.”

Jay G., Lake Park Elementary School