In May 2019, the state of Georgia passed the ‘heartbeat’ bill; a ban on abortion from the moment a foetal heartbeat is detected.

With a heartbeat often evident as early as six weeks from conception, many women may not even realise they’re pregnant before abortion becomes a criminal act, leaving choices severely restricted.

Exceptions to the bill:

  • When the foetus is conceived as a result of rape or incest (but the woman must have filed a police report first)
  • Where the life of the mother is in danger
  • When the foetus has a severe medical condition and a full-term or healthy pregnancy may not be viable.

Abortion is currently legal in Georgia during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. While changes to legislation were scheduled to come into effect on January 1, a federal judge has placed a temporary block on the abortion ban after a constitutional challenge.

A collaboration between the American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood and the Centre for Reproductive Rights led to opposition to the law following in the footsteps of other groups who have taken similar measures in other states across America.

The proposed laws are designed to protect the rights of the unborn child. The declaration states that a foetus is a natural person once the heartbeat is detected which directly opposes the 1973 ruling which legalised abortion up to 12 weeks.

Challenging the changes, humanitarian and women’s rights activists state that a woman has the right to determine when she wants to start a family and that politicians cannot make those decisions for her.

While legal proceedings have currently put the proposed statute on hold, the ‘heartbeat’ bill fails to address the complex physical and emotional needs of a mother being forced to endure an unwanted pregnancy. Identifying a foetus as a person as early as six weeks into a pregnancy may also have wider-reaching consequences for taxation and child support.