Update: On Tuesday, the U.S. District Court in Atlanta blocked Georgia’s abortion ban from taking effect. “The court recognized today that this law is blatantly unconstitutional and a clear attempt to overturn Roe v. Wade,” Emily Nestler, senior staff attorney at the Center for Reproductive Rights, said in a statement provided to Refinery29. “Georgia is one of nine states that passed abortion bans this year, all of which have been blocked by courts. Instead of passing laws that restrict the rights of pregnant women, Georgia lawmakers should be implementing policies that help pregnant women. Georgia has the worst maternal mortality rate in the country.”
This story was originally published on May 7, 2019.
Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law Tuesday a measure that will ban abortions in Georgia once a fetal heartbeat is detected. The ACLU and Planned Parenthood are already prepared to challenge the ban in court, and advocates are prepared to vote out the lawmakers who supported it.
“To the Georgia lawmakers who supported this legislation: You were right to be nervous about voting for House Bill 481,” Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, said in a statement to Refinery29. “We warned you. If you choose to vote against women’s rights, we’ll be voting against you in the next election. We’re putting lawmakers on notice: Your votes are far outside the mainstream and we will now spend our time and energy launching a campaign to replace you. That work begins now. The people of this state stood up and spoke out against this draconian legislation and our lawmakers chose not to listen. Now we are mobilizing and we are coming for their seats. They will be held accountable for playing politics with women’s health.”
House Bill 481, which passed the state House of Representatives in late March, is part of a wave of so-called heartbeat bills that have been aggressively introduced by conservatives since January. Pro-choice advocates say these measures constitute a de facto ban on abortion, because a fetal heartbeat is usually detected at about six weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant. At least 15 states have considered this type of ban, and three — Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio — signed them into law this year alone. (A court blocked Kentucky’s measure, while the bans in Mississippi and Ohio are not set to take effect until the summer.)
As we’ve reported before, these measures are considered unconstitutional due to the U.S. Supreme Court‘s 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Back then, the court upheld a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion before viability. (Researchers say a fetus is not considered viable until around 22 weeks of pregnancy.)
So, why are anti-choice lawmakers introducing these heartbeat bills despite a clear precedent? The answer lies in the new makeup of the Supreme Court, and the fact that anti-abortion advocates have been emboldened by the election of President Donald Trump, who has promised to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. According to Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, the aggressive rate at which these measures are being introduced might be unprecedented, but the reason behind them couldn’t be clearer. “These bans are very much at the center of Roe v. Wade,” she previously told Refinery29. “The idea is to kick off a court case and ultimately is to get this before the U.S. Supreme Court, with the anticipation that the court is looking to undermine or overturn Roe v. Wade. Conservatives are very eager to get that ball rolling.”
Advocates emphasize that abortion is still legal in Georgia, since the ban doesn’t go into effect until January 2020. Meanwhile, they will be fighting the new law in court.
“This bill is part of an orchestrated national agenda to push abortion care out of reach, and we won’t stand for it. Governor Kemp, we will see you in court,” Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement to Refinery29.
FYI – Abortion is STILL LEGAL in Georgia. The new law doesn’t go into effect until January 2020. Until then, abortion services are available up to 20-22 weeks gestation.— Jill Says Abortion is Still Legal in Georgia (@heavisj) May 6, 2019
We’re still fighting – Law suits are in process and we are coming for these seats. https://t.co/Y2vMicWs04
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