Georgia’s Heartbeat Bill Could Federally Restrict Abortions

Nate Galt | United States

Last week, Georgia lawmakers passed a bill that bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. Dubbed the “heartbeat bill,” the legislation would make abortions illegal if the fetus has a heartbeat. The proposal will remain on Governor Brian Kemp’s desk until May 12. The Georgia governor had previously stated that he would sign the “heartbeat bill” into law. However, numerous celebrities and activists are pressuring him to veto the legislation. Many of Hollywood’s elite petitioned to end their work in the state should the abortion restriction become law. 

The Heartbeat Bill

Georgia is not the only state where a “heartbeat bill” could pass. The bill is on the desks of the governors of the states of Kentucky, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Recently, there has been a spike in the number of state legislatures that are proposing heavier restrictions on abortion. The American Civil Liberties Union promised to challenge any such bill if signed into law. These legal challenges from abortion rights and civil liberties groups such as the ACLU have always been successful.

In May 2018, Iowa’s Republican governor, Kim Reynolds, approved a similar bill. However, in January, Iowa’s law prohibiting abortion following the sixth week of pregnancy was ruled unconstitutional after a long legal battle. If Georgia Governor Kemp acts on his promise to sign the legislation, the following constitutional lawsuit will set a precedent. 

The state legislatures of Florida, Missouri, Arkansas, and Minnesota are going to vote on the same proposal soon. If the law is struck down in Georgia and those aforementioned states’ governors sign the “heartbeat bill,” the legislation would not last long before it gets repealed in those states. However, should the lawsuit fail and the “heartbeat bill” was to be ruled constitutional, a multitude of state legislatures and governors would have an easier path to upholding their abortion bans. 

Opposition to Abortion Restrictions

Abortion rights groups, feminist organizations, and many prominent Democrats have criticized these proposals, stating that they are a progressive shift towards criminalizing all abortion and repealing Roe v. Wade. Ending abortion has been a key part of the Republican Party’s platform for years, and 2019 will be a turning point for the fate of the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion. If state Republicans pass the “heartbeat bill,” it is most likely a matter of time until more restrictions become enacted and become federal law. 

When abortion rights organizations sue the state of Georgia after the passing of this legislation, the fate of Roe v. Wade will be uncertain. 

If the lawsuit fails, Republicans will be able to further test the limits of the constitutionality of abortion. A repeal of the new law would certainly spell a Democratic victory and an assurance that women’s right to an abortion will never be taken away.

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