Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia signed the “Heartbeat Bill,” also known as HB481 on Tuesday. The main purpose of this bill is to ban abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy, which Georgia law establishes a fetus as a person. This means that a woman can be criminally charged with her fetus’s death if she seeks an abortion, and even if she has a miscarriage.
Most women do not even know they are pregnant until they are seven to eight weeks along. And many women do not know they have miscarried because they miscarry before they discover they are pregnant and they mistake the blood for period blood.
“[The bill] is very simple but also very powerful: a declaration that all life has value, that all life matters, and that all life is worthy of protection,” Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said. “I realize that some may challenge it in a court of law. But our job is to do what is right, not what is easy. We are called to be strong and courageous, and we will not back down. We will always continue to fight for life.”
Attorneys with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Reproductive Freedom Project and the Center for Reproductive Rights have announced that they plan to challenge the bill, which will take effect on January 1. The organization states that the bill violates Roe vs. Wade.
Right now, abortion is still legal in Georgia and will remain that way if the bill is defeated in court.
Several states have recently passed either six or fifteen-week abortion bans in attempts to bring a case before the Supreme Court to overturn Roe vs. Wade.
In addition to banning abortion after a heartbeat can be detected, the law’s personhood provisions allow the following:
1-Allow fetuses to be claimed as dependents for tax purposes.
2-Count fetuses as people in official population surveys, which would have implications for political representation.
3-Allow for women who perform their own abortions outside a formal medical setting to be charged with first-degree murder, which could carry a sentence of up to life in prison or the death penalty.
By defining fetuses as people, this Georgia bill has many far-reaching implications. For example, state prosecutors could then charge women whose pregnancies end in miscarriage with second-degree murder, which carries a sentence of 10 to 30 years, if it can be proven the miscarriage was caused by the woman’s conduct.
What about a man’s conduct? Are they really going to charge a woman with second-degree murder if domestic violence causes a miscarriage?
Also, a woman who travels out of state for an abortion, as well as anyone who assists her, can be charged with conspiracy to commit murder under Georgia’s fetal personhood law.
One must ask if prosecutors are going interrogate women who just miscarried her child to determine whether they can be held responsible? Is the state really going to put a woman who just lost her child through that?
Under Georgia’s law, it’s unclear whether fetuses would be given their own separate trials or right to counsel if their mothers were charged with crimes. Making a fetus a person would that not also mean that women who are pregnant and incarcerated must be released from jail because the child they are carrying is innocent of any crimes?
Fetal personhood statues could very likely also jeopardize the fertility treatments and surrogacy, both of which involve the destruction of embryos that would classify as people under the new law.
So far, no state has successfully implemented a six-week abortion ban. Iowa’s ban was struck down by the state court, and North Dakota’s was struck down by the federal court for violating Roe vs. Wade.
Mississippi, Ohio, and Kentucky have signed similar six-week abortion bans into law, but all are being challenged in court. Alabama is set to pass a law banning all abortion, but that bill will most likely be struck down as well.