The Georgia Senate voted Friday to ban abortion as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected. The anti-choice legislation is part of a wave of so-called heartbeat bills that have been aggressively introduced by conservatives since January.
Reproductive rights advocates and health providers say House Bill 481, which Republican Gov. Brian Kemp supports and has said would sign into law, is a de facto ban on abortions. This is because a fetal heartbeat is usually detected at about six weeks, before many women know they're pregnant. Georgia currently bans abortion after 20 weeks of gestation.
"Banning abortion before most people even know they are pregnant is a gross intrusion into the lives of Georgians and their families, and the impact will fall hardest on people of color, poor people, and rural and marginalized communities," Oriaku Njoku, executive director and co-founder of ARC-Southeast, which helps people access reproductive care, said in a statement provided to Refinery29. She added: "This ban is part of a calculated national strategy by anti-abortion politicians to eliminate access to care entirely. We will not stop fighting these attacks on our bodily autonomy because we trust Georgians to make their own decisions about what's best for them."
As we've reported before, these bills are unconstitutional due to the U.S. Supreme Court's 1992 decision on Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which upheld a woman's right to choose an abortion before viability. That has not stopped anti-abortion lawmakers in a dozen states from introducing these fetal heartbeat bills this year alone. In the last week, Kentucky and Mississippi both signed their respective heartbeat bans into law. A court blocked Kentucky's over the weekend. After Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed the bill into law Thursday, advocates said they would deploy a legal challenge. Similar legislation is also being considered in Ohio, Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina, Florida, West Virginia, Maryland, Texas, and Minnesota.
While in the past anti-abortion lawmakers have focused more largely on legislation such as the targeted regulation of abortion providers, also known as TRAP laws, the new conservative balance of the U.S. Supreme Court has given them hope that the end of Roe v. Wade is near.
“These bans are very much at the center of Roe v. Wade,” Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, previously told Refinery29. “The idea is to kick off a court case and ultimately is to get this before the U.S. Supreme Court with the anticipation that the court is looking to undermine or overturn Roe v. Wade. Conservatives are very eager to get that ball rolling.”