Georgia’s “Fetal Heartbeat” Abortion Law

I keep seeing some wild claims about the new Georgia abortion law. Here is what I found out about Georgia’s HB 481.

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The bill, signed into law by Governor Brian Kemp on May 7, 2019, goes into effect January 1, 2020. The Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act, HB 481, amends a few different statutes governing abortion already in place. Georgia is actually one of four states to pass a “fetal heartbeat” bill.

 

Are the Unborn Considered People Under the Georgia Law?

Section 2 of the bill gives the unborn personhood.

“Modern medical science…demonstrates that unborn children are a class of living, distinct persons…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…recognizes the benefits of providing full legal recognition to an unborn child above the minimum requirements of federal law…No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws…It shall be the policy of the State…to recognize unborn children as natural persons.”

The next section goes on to define why the unborn are natural persons, (“… any human being including an unborn child.”) as opposed to artificial ones, like corporations. The language goes on to define a natural person as:

“…any natural person, including an unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat, shall be included in population based determinations…’Unborn child’ means a member of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development who is carried in the womb.”

By claiming the fetus has personhood, the protections given by the 14th Amendment kick in, which is what a lot of this bill hinges on.

 

What Does the Georgia Law Consider as an Abortion?

Abortion isn’t just one thing or one type of procedure. Section 4 outlines what constitutes an abortion. According to the bill, abortion is:

“…the act of using, prescribing, or administering any instrument, substance, device, or other means with the purpose to terminate a pregnancy with knowledge that termination will, with reasonable likelihood, cause the death of an unborn child;”

The bill also points out the following situations are not considered abortions:

In addition, the law allows for abortions under certain circumstances.

 

When Is Abortion Legal Under the Georgia Law?

Georgia didn’t ban abortions. This bill narrows the window in which someone can receive an abortion from 20 weeks to whenever a physician can detect a heartbeat, which can happen as soon as 6 weeks.

Still, in Section 4, the language goes into situations where someone can legally have an abortion.

Medical emergencies – “…in order to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or the substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”

The law does not make an exception for people with diagnosed or claimed mental or emotional conditions. Also, if a pregnant woman tries to seriously harm herself or kill herself, they cannot then try to have an abortion claiming the pregnancy may now cause them harm.

Medical futility – Abortion is legal if the unborn has a congenital or chromosomal issue “…incompatible with sustaining life after birth.”

Rape and incest – If the fetus is 20-weeks or less along, and the victim filed a police report, they can seek an abortion.

Otherwise, if there’s a detectable heartbeat, the abortion is illegal.

 

Will Georgia Doctor’s Try to Keep the Fetus Alive After an Abortion?

If the physician performing the abortion can keep the fetus alive, then they must do so. As long as the method doesn’t kill or irreparably harm the woman, the physician must choose an abortion method that gives the fetus the best chance of living.

 

Will All the Details of the Abortion Officially Go On Record in Georgia?

Yes. All health records will go on file and remain available to the DA of the local court.

 

Can a Woman Sue if Someone Performs an Abortion on them in Georgia?

The end of Section 4 goes on to point out that a woman who receives an abortion in violation of the rules laid out in this section can sue. These torts assume the abortion occurred unintentionally. For example, if medical treatment, negligent care, or bad advice leads to an abortion, the woman can sue the parties involved.

In addition, under these laws, abortion is treated as child homicide and therefore falls under the laws governing wrongful death in Georgia. That means someone can bring a wrongful death lawsuit on behalf of the fetus.

 

Will Men in Georgia Have to Pay Child Support for a Developing Fetus?

Section 5 updates the law concerning child support and alimony by including the fetus as a child. The amount of support for the developing fetus is “…the amount of direct medical and pregnancy related expenses…”

 

Can Someone Claim an Embryo on Their Georgia Taxes?

According to the law, yes, you can claim the fetus as a dependent.

 

Can An Abortion Lead to Jail Time or Even the Death Sentence in Georgia?

This bill doesn’t actually speak on penalties for going through with an abortion after the allotted time frame. However, many people are in a panic because the language of the bill gives personhood to the fetus.

With personhood in place, the fetus is basically a citizen. That key designation turns abortion into manslaughter, homicide, or murder depending on how the process occurs.

Actions that can lead to losing the fetus can also become grounds for serious criminal charges. Even if the fetus survives something like the mother overdosing, this can mean an attempted murder charge. Nevertheless, there is no clear indication of what the state will do in these cases as of yet.

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Georgia’s "Fetal Heartbeat" Abortion Law
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Answers to some common questions about Georgia's HB 481 abortion bill.
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