Georgia governor Brian Kemp has signed the state’s controversial “heartbeat” abortion ban into law, giving the southern state one of the most restrictive laws in the United States that could send women to jail for life if they terminate their pregnancies after six weeks.
Mr Kemp had promised on the campaign trail last year to sign the bill, which bans all abortions as soon as a heartbeat is detectable by a physician — a signal that can be found six weeks into a pregnancy, a time when many women are not even aware that they are carrying a developing foetus.
The new law marks a dramatic reduction from the 20 week mark currently allowed for women to make the decision about their pregnancy in the state, and comes as conservatives in the US have mounted a sweeping effort to challenge current abortion law set forth by the Supreme Court's Roe v Wade guidelines. Those guidelines make it illegal for a state to ban abortion in cases where a foetus cannot survive outside of the womb, and an unborn child of six weeks is much too premature to live in such conditions.
The bill was sent to Mr Kemp’s desk in March, and will not go into effect until 1 January. It does include exceptions for cases involving rape, incest, or in situations where the health of a mother is in danger.
The law comes as a part of a broader conservative movement that has seen several state legislatures creating laws that they hope will then spur a legal challenge, and, ultimately, bring the issue before a Supreme Court with one of the friendliest ideological make ups for conservatives in decades.
Georgia’s new law has already sparked such a legal challenge, adding the state to a list of four states that have passed these laws just this year.
The other states include Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio.
Mr Kemp, announcing his decision to sign the bill into law, recognised that his signature would be met with swift legal action.
“I realise that some may challenge it in a court of law, but our job is to do what is right not what is easy,” Mr Kemp said.
Planned Parenthood released a statement moments after the bill was signed by the governor, and pledged to take Georgia to task over the abortion policy.
“Planned Parenthood will be suing the State of Georgia. We will fight this terrible bill because this is about our patients' lives,” Dr Leana Wen, president of Planned Parenthood Action Fund, said.
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