Georgia Legislature Sends 'Heartbeat' Abortion Bill To Gov. Kemp

Mar 29, 2019

Georgia is on track to have the toughest abortion laws in the country – and to have that law challenged in court.

Followed by a smattering of “Shame!” from the gallery, the Georgia House gave final passage to HB 481, which would effectively ban abortion once a heartbeat is detected, around six weeks into pregnancy and before most women know they are pregnant.

The bill, which heads to Gov. Brian Kemp’s desk after clearing the House by one vote over the threshold needed to pass 92-78, also carves out exceptions if the mother’s life is in danger, if a pregnancy is deemed “medically futile” or if a pregnancy is the result of rape or incest and a police report is filed.

In the leadup to the vote, Hollywood actors, local film and television workers, business leaders and local elected officials voiced opposition to the bill – and the courts have struck down similar measures across the country.

This week, a federal judge in North Carolina struck down a 20-week abortion ban and another federal judge in Kentucky halted that state’s “heartbeat” bill earlier this month.

But sponsor Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) says Georgia’s bill is different because it gives a fetus the same protections as a child through changes to the tax code and child support rules. 
 
"Other states simply address the issue of a heartbeat,” Setzler said after the bill passed. “We addressed more broadly the personhood question, because that is what the Roe v, Wade decision guides us to do.” 

Many abortion rights opponents hope Georgia’s bill or others like it will be challenged all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to overturn the court’s decision on Roe.

A number of abortion rights groups quickly decried the vote, with Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates saying "this fight is not over." The Democratic Party of Georgia also put out a list of Republican-held seats that they plan to recruit challengers for in the 2020 election.

In a press release, Gov. Brian Kemp said he applauded the House and Senate's decision and that "the legislature's bold action reaffirms our priorities and who we are as a state."

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia said they would "see you in court" as soon as Kemp signs the bill.