Georgia governor signs 'heartbeat bill' restricting abortion access, setting the stage for a court battle over the law

  • Governor Brian Kemp officially signed HB481, a so-called “heartbeat bill” that aims to ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected at 6 weeks, into law on Tuesday.
  • Already this year, the Governors of Mississippi, Ohio, and Kentucky have passed similar 6-week abortion ban legislation, all of which is currently being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union and other groups.
  • Reproductive rights attorneys told INSIDER Georgia’s attempt to effectively ban abortion clearly violates Roe v. Wade and is likely to be struck down, but represents a growing trend by Republican-led states to challenge Roe more broadly.
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Georgia became the latest state to impose new restrictions on abortions, with Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday officially signing HB481, a so-called “heartbeat bill” that aims to ban abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually at 6 weeks, into law.

The bill, first introduced in February and passed by the Georgia Senate last month, gained nationwide attention, with several prominent celebrities including actress Alyssa Milano travelling to Atlanta to protest the bill last month and urging the film and television industry to boycott the state over the law.

The law would not only ban abortion on fetuses with “a detectable human heartbeat,” but would allow fetuses to be counted as dependent minors for state tax purposes, and count unborn fetuses in official population surveys. It includes limited exceptions for rape and incest if a police report is filed, and risks to the mother’s life.

Already this year, the Governors of Mississippi, Ohio, and Kentucky have passed similar 6-week abortion ban legislation, all of which are currently being challenged in court by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

In a Tuesday statement to INSIDER, ACLU reproductive freedom project attorney Talcott Camp said the organisation would also be suing Georgia over the ban on the grounds that it violates Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that protects the right to abortion until the point of viability.

“Politicians should be focused on improving health care access for all women, not banning abortion before most women know they’re pregnant,” Camp said.


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Pro-life advocacy organisations celebrate the law while opponents fight back.

“We thank Governor Brian Kemp and the Georgia legislature for championing this compassionate law,” A representative for the Susan B. Anthony List, an organisation that opposes abortion, told INSIDER. “Pro-abortion Hollywood elites clearly underestimated the people of Georgia in thinking they could be bullied.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights also told INSIDER they would be suing over the ban, with chief counsel Elisabeth Smith calling it “bafflingly unconstitutional.”

Smith pointed to the fact that every state that has previously attempted to restrict abortion at 6 weeks have either had their laws struck down by a state or federal court. No state has successfully banned abortion at 6 or at 15 weeks, which Mississippi tried to do last fall before being blocked by a federal judge.


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“Even for women who find out they’re pregnant before six weeks, it would be nearly impossible to get an abortion before the cutoff,” Smith added, noting that Georgia law already requires women seeking an abortion to make two in-person clinic visits before the procedure and has instituted restrictions on which insurance plans can cover abortions.

Smith said she believes the spike in Republican-controlled states passing abortion restrictions is an attempt by state governments to get a case before the Supreme Court that could result in Roe v. Wade being struck down, but predicted that will ultimately be unlikely given that no recent 6 or 15 week bans have made it to the nation’s highest court.

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