Georgia Outlaws Abortion After Heartbeat is Detected, Prepares for Legal Battle

By Aliya Kuykendall Published on May 7, 2019

Georgia governor Brian Kemp signed the LIFE Act Tuesday morning, outlawing abortions after a heartbeat is detected. This usually occurs around 6 weeks gestation.

“Georgia is a state that values life,” Kemp said before signing the bill into law. “We stand up for those who are unable to speak for themselves.”

Georgia is the fourth state to pass a “heartbeat bill” this year, joining Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi.

Actress Alyssa Milano sent Gov. Kemp a letter signed by 50 celebrities, urging him not to sign the bill. Kemp responded, saying he can’t govern based on “what someone in Hollywood thinks about me.”

Specifics of the LIFE Act

The LIFE Act, also known as HB 481, recognizes preborn persons as citizens. The law reads, “It shall be the policy of the State of Georgia to recognize unborn children as natural persons.”

The law also allows pregnant mothers to collect child support from the fathers. The support required can be up to the amount of the “medical and pregnancy-related expenses of the mother of the unborn child.”

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Georgia’s law makes exceptions for rape and incest. It allows abortion up to 20 weeks gestation in these cases. The mother must file a police report to qualify for the exception. It also makes exceptions for medical emergencies and if a doctor determines the pregnancy is “medically futile.” (Live Action points out that abortions aren’t medically necessary to save a mother’s life.)

Legal Battles

The law is set to take effect in January 2020. But it faces certain legal battles.

“This law is bafflingly unconstitutional. Bans like this have always been blocked by courts. We will be suing Georgia to make sure this law has the same fate,” Elisabeth Smith, Chief Counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement.

The ACLU of Georgia issued a statement in March saying they would sue. “If this abortion bill becomes a law, we will see you in court,” the statement said.

The language of Georgia’s new law directly challenges the validity of Roe v. Wade. It reads, “Modern medical science, not available decades ago, demonstrates that unborn children are a class of living, distinct persons and more expansive state recognition of unborn children as persons did not exist when Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and Roe v. Wade (1973) established abortion related precedents.”

Georgia’s law is one of many state laws that challenge Roe v. Wade. Joshua Edmonds, the executive director of the anti-abortion Georgia Life Alliance, said he thinks this law could be the one to make it to the Supreme Court. “We think we have a better chance than most states, because of our state and circuit court make-ups, to have favorable rulings as the case goes up the chain.”

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