A federal judge has temporarily blocked a Georgia law that would ban most abortions as soon as a heartbeat can be detected by a doctor, as early as six weeks into pregnancy. House Bill 481 would have gone into effect January 1, 2020 but will be on hold until the case against it plays out in court. Similar “heartbeat bills” have been passed this year in Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, and Ohio. All have been blocked by federal courts.
Georgia Law Dangerous for Women
The Georgia law was signed by Governor Brian Kemp in May. It would ban abortions, with very limited exceptions, once a fetal heartbeat can be detected by a doctor. This happens about six weeks into pregnancy. Many women do not even know they are pregnant at that stage. Current Georgia law sets the limit at 20 weeks into pregnancy.
While there are exceptions to HB 481, even the exceptions are objectionable. For instance, there is an exception in cases of rape or incest, but in order to qualify a woman or girl must file a police report, something many victims are not willing or able to do until years after the crime occurred.
Georgia has the highest maternal death rate of all states in the U.S. Half of the counties in Georgia do not have a single OB/GYN or a hospital that can deliver babies and provide OB/GYN services.
Heartbeat Bills Violate Women’s Constitutional Right as Established by Roe v. Wade
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Georgia sued on the basis that HB 481 violates a woman’s constitutional right to abortion. The right was established in 1973 by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.
On Tuesday, October 1, Judge Steve C. Jones of United States District Court in Atlanta blocked BH 481 while the lawsuit against the state continues. In his 47-page ruling Jones wrote, “What is clearly defined, however, is that under no circumstances whatsoever may a state prohibit or ban abortions at any point prior to viability, no matter what interests the state asserts to support it. By banning abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, HB 481 prohibits women from making the ultimate decision to terminate her pregnancy at a point before viability.”
Why Are States Attempting Abortion Bans Now?
Brett Kavanaugh was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2018. Anti-abortion advocates are hoping that he will tip the balance in their favor and that there is now a chance of the Supreme Court overturning, or at least weakening Roe v. Wade.