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Georgia passes bill banning abortion if a heartbeat is detected


Crystal Light/Shutterstock

John Burger - published on 03/31/19

Gov. Brian Kemp says law "reaffirms our priorities and who we are as a state."

Georgia’s legislature on Friday passed a bill banning abortion if an unborn baby’s heartbeat can be detected. The bill has been sent to the desk of Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who has promised to sign the legislation.

“Georgia values life,” Kemp said in a statement Friday. “The legislature’s bold action reaffirms our priorities and who we are as a state.”

The measure was approved by just one vote more than the majority needed to pass out of the House: 92 votes from the 180-member chamber, ABC News reported.

Women in Georgia can currently seek an abortion during the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy, ABC said, adding that a heartbeat can be detected in an embryo as early as six weeks.

The new bill would make exceptions in the case of rape and incest—only when the woman files a police report first—and to save the life of the mother. It also would allow for abortions when a fetus is determined not to be viable because of serious medical issues.

Republican Rep. Ed Setzler, the bill’s author, said it was a “commonsense” measure that seeks to balance “the difficult circumstances women find themselves in with the basic right to life of a child.”

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia said it will challenge the law in court if it’s signed by Kemp.

“Under 50 years of Supreme Court precedent, this bill is blatantly unconstitutional,” Sean Young, legal director for the ACLU of Georgia, told ABC News Friday. “That is why every single federal court that has considered such bans has struck them down.”

The Medical Association of Georgia and the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians sent letters to lawmakers opposing the legislation.

While several states recently have expanded abortion rights, notably New York’s Reproductive Health Act, some states are going in the opposite direction. Lawmakers in Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina and Ohio are pursuing legislation similar to Georgia’s, while Republican governors in Mississippi and Kentucky have recently signed heartbeat abortion bans. ABC reported:

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a heartbeat abortion ban on March 21, despite a federal judge’s ruling last year that struck down a less-restrictive law limiting abortions there. Kentucky’s law was temporarily blocked by a federal judge shortly after Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed it March 14, in response to a challenge by the ACLU. A state judge found Iowa’s heartbeat abortion ban to be unconstitutional in January.

If signed and not blocked in court, the Georgia law would take effect January 1, 2020.

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