Georgia’s 2019 heartbeat law can now take effect after court ruling

heartbeat bill, Georgia

A federal court has ruled that a heartbeat law in Georgia can take effect, thanks to the Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.

In 2019, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed HB 481 into law, protecting preborn human beings after a heartbeat can be detected, typically at about six weeks gestation (though the heart begins to beat around 16-22 days). The ACLU, on behalf of Planned Parenthood Southeast and other abortion organizations, successfully sued, and a federal judge issued an injunction against the law before it could take effect.

However, on Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit said the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision meant there is no right to abortion under the United States Constitution, and therefore, the state could restrict them as they pleased. The law can also take effect immediately, and Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr said it would.

The law includes exceptions for rape and incest if a police report is filed, and abortion is permitted later in the pregnancy if the mother’s life is at risk; however, deliberately killing a child old enough to survive outside the womb would not be medically necessary.

The ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and Planned Parenthood released a joint statement condemning the ruling. “This is a highly unorthodox action that will immediately push essential abortion care out of reach for patients beyond the earliest stages of pregnancy,” they said. “Across the state, providers are now being forced to turn away patients who thought they would be able to access abortion, immediately changing the course of their lives and futures. This is horrific. We’ll continue doing everything in our power to fight for abortion access in Georgia in the face of these harmful attacks on people’s ability to control if and when to have a child.”

READ: Georgia abortion rates increase for third straight year, and Planned Parenthood credits COVID-19

“The ACLU of Georgia will continue to fight for abortion rights for the women of Georgia with all of the tools at our disposal,” Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, added. “At the same time, Georgia voters have the opportunity to vote out politicians who oppose a woman’s right to decide when, whether, and with whom she wants to have a family.”

“Today, politicians have shamefully come between Georgians and their ability to control their own bodies and determine their own futures,” Alexis McGill Johnson, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, said, adding, “This is a grave human rights violation, and Planned Parenthood, along with its partners, will do everything in our power to fight back and ensure all people can get the health care they need, regardless of where they live.”

Gov. Brian Kemp celebrated the ruling alongside his wife, Marty Kemp, in a video published on Twitter.

“Today’s decision by the 11th Circuit affirms our promise to protect life at all stages,” he said. Marty Kemp added, “We have worked hard to increase supportive services for mothers and their children, before, during, and after birth.”

An attached statement further added, “We are overjoyed that the court has paved the way for the implementation of Georgia’s LIFE Act, and as mothers navigate pregnancy, birth, parenthood, or alternative options to parenthood — like adoption — Georgia’s public, private, and non-profit sectors stand ready to provide the resources they need to be safe, healthy, and informed.”

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