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Georgia governor signs fetal heartbeat abortion ban
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Georgia governor signs fetal heartbeat abortion ban

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp on Tuesday signed the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act, which prevents an abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected.

The bill uses the term “‘detectable human heartbeat’ [which] means embryonic or fetal cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the heart within the gestational sac.” Fetal heartbeats are generally detectable at six weeks gestation.

This move is meant to equate a heartbeat with personhood. The bill states that Georgia intends “to recognize unborn children as natural persons.” The use of a fetal heartbeat is justified as a threshold in the bill, without specific medical or scientific citation, by stating that “modern medical science, not available decades ago, demonstrates that unborn children are a class of living, distinct persons.”

Separate restrictions are imposed on pregnancies that result from rape or incest. In these instances, women are only able to obtain an abortion where the “probable gestational age of the unborn child is 20 weeks or less and the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest in which an official police report has been filed alleging the offense of rape or incest.” Without a police report, women seeking abortion services would be limited to the six-week window.

There is an exception for abortions due to medical emergencies. These emergencies are strictly defined as conditions “in which an abortion is necessary in order to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or the substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.”

This bill follows a fetal heartbeat bill trend that has emerged in other states, including Tennessee and Kentucky. It is set to take effect January 1, 2020.