Georgia House passes 'dangerous and deeply flawed' heartbeat abortion bill

HB481, also known as the 'heartbeat bill', aims to ban abortion six weeks into pregnancy, when a heartbeat is detectable. It is expected to be signed into law by pro-life Governor Brian Kemp.

Victoria Gagliardo-Silver
New York
Friday 29 March 2019 22:16 GMT
Pro-choice activists gather for a demonstration against the Trump administration's title X rule change in New York City
Pro-choice activists gather for a demonstration against the Trump administration's title X rule change in New York City (Getty )

The Georgia state legislature has passed a bill banning abortion at six weeks, when a heartbeat is detectable.

As many women are not aware of their pregnancies at the six-week point, and this heavily restricts abortion beyond the federal guidelines in Roe v. Wade, the decision is being publicly opposed and denounced by pro-choice groups and public figures like Alyssa Milano, an actress and activist.

House Bill 481, or the Living Infants Fairness and Equality act was passed by both the Georgia House and Senate, to the praise of Governor Brian Kemp.

This bill, expected to be signed into law by Kemp, would ban all abortion after six weeks except in the cases of rape, with a police report, incest, or medical emergency.

The bill extends the definition of ‘natural persons’ under the law to include the foetus as an “unborn child” at the point where ‘ the existence of a detectable human heartbeat” is detectable’. Due to that designation, women who receive abortions after six weeks in Georgia, and those who provide them would, in theory, be able prosecuted.

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“The State Senate affirmed Georgia’s commitment to life and the rights of the innocent unborn,” said Kemp, via statement. “I applaud the members who supported the heartbeat bill’s passage for protecting the vulnerable and giving a voice to those who cannot yet speak for themselves.”

Georgia, if Kemp signs the bill into law, would join Kentucky and Mississippi in having some of the most restrictive abortion laws in America, although those laws have yet to be enforced as they are challenged by civil rights groups on their constitutionality. The Georgia ACLU has also announced plans to sue.

The bill's passing sparked calls for mobilisation and protest from Ilyse Hogue, pro-choice activist and NARAL president, who encouraged women to "raise your voice". Gynaecologist and writer Dr. Jennifer Gunter took a more radical position, claiming "If [HB481 is] signed into law, it will kill women".

Other women, like pro-life activist and president of anti-abortion group Live Action, Lila Rose, are celebrating the passing of the bill. Rose said, in response to Milano's activism, "These are human lives - somebody’s sons and daughters. Abortion destroys children & degrades women - and the abortion industry alone profits."

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