Republican Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign into law Tuesday a measure that will ban abortions in Georgia once a fetal heartbeat is detected. Reproductive rights advocates are expected to challenge the ban in court.
House Bill 481, which passed the state House of Representatives in late March, is part of a wave of so-called heartbeat bills that have been aggressively introduced by conservatives since January. Advocates say these measures constitute a de facto ban on abortion, because a fetal heartbeat is usually detected at about six weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant. At least 15 states have considered this type of ban and three — Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio — signed them into law this year alone. (A court blocked Kentucky’s measure, while the bans in Mississippi and Ohio are not set to take effect until the summer.)
As we’ve reported before, these measures are considered unconstitutional due to the U.S. Supreme Court ‘s 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. Back then, the court upheld a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion before viability. (Researchers say a fetus is not considered viable until around 22 weeks of pregnancy.)
So, why are anti-choice lawmakers introducing these heartbeat bills despite a clear precedent? The answer lies in the new makeup of the Supreme Court and how anti-abortion advocates have been emboldened by the election of President Donald Trump, who has promised to overturn Roe v. Wade , the landmark 1973 decision that legalized abortion nationwide. According to Elizabeth Nash, senior state issues manager at the Guttmacher Institute, the aggressive rate at which these measures are being introduced might be unprecedented, but the reason behind them couldn’t be clearer. “These bans are very much at the center of Roe v. Wade,” she 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.”
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