Georgia abortion bill signed into law

Georgia District 53 state Sen. Jeff Mullis (left) and Gov. Brian Kemp (right) stand firmly behind HB 481, the "Heartbeat Bill" the governor signed into law on May 7, which limits abortion once a "human heartbeat" can be detected in an unborn fetus.

Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law on May 7 HB 481, the "Living Infant Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act," popularly known as the "Heartbeat Bill." It goes into effect Jan. 1, 2020.

HB 481 defines an unborn child with a detectable heartbeat as a "natural person" with the right to life, except under certain circumstances.

Introducing the new law, HB 481 states: "The General Assembly of Georgia makes the following findings: In the founding of the United States of America, the State of Georgia and the several states affirmed that: 'We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness — that to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among men.'"

The bill goes on to cite the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution that "protects(s) the fundamental rights of particular classes of persons who had not previously been recognized under law." Quoting the amendment, HB 481 says: "nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws."

"Modern medical science, not available decades ago," says HB 481, "demonstrates that unborn children are a class of living, distinct persons and more expansive state recognition of unborn children as persons did not exist when Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) and Roe v. Wade (1973) established abortion related precedents; The State of Georgia, applying reasoned judgment to the full

body of modern medical science, recognizes the benefits of providing full legal recognition to an unborn child above the minimum requirements of federal law."

HB 481 prohibits abortion if there is a "detectable human heartbeat." Some exceptions apply. "No abortion is authorized or shall be performed if an unborn child has been determined in accordance with Code Section 31-9B-2 to have a detectable human heartbeat except when: A physician determines, in reasonable medical judgment, that a medical emergency exists; 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... (or) a physician determines, in reasonable medical judgment, that the pregnancy is medically futile."

Under HB 481, women must be informed by abortion providers at least 24 hours before an abortion if there is a detectable human heartbeat.

The law provides for a woman on whom an abortion is performed in violation of the applicable Georgia Code to recover damages under a civil action suit.

The law also states that a "court may impose on the father of an unborn child ... direct medical and pregnancy related expenses of the mother of the unborn child."

Governing magazine reported in April that some members of the film industry were threatening to boycott Georgia if the "Heartbeat Bill" passed. Georgia provides tax and other incentives to filmmakers and has become a go-to place to film movies (part of "Avengers: Endgame" was filmed in Georgia). Georgia District 53 Sen. Jeff Mullis of Chickamauga said at a recent speaking engagement that neither he nor the governor were concerned about losing film industry business. "The governor is not going to com promise on something this important because people are threatening boycotts. Georgia supports the film industry's work in our state and we support the right to life."