Martha Zoller, executive director of the Georgia Life Alliance, said the state had overcome another hurdle to enact the law. Georgia Life Alliance was one of the anti-abortion groups working on the 2019 legislation.
“This is another step towards a post-Roe Georgia and we are ready,” Zoller said. “Soon we will be able to implement the law that we have worked so hard on that will save the lives of babies.”
Abortion rights groups and providers sued Georgia in 2019 after the legislature passed the abortion law banning the procedure once a doctor can detect fetal heart activity.
The Georgia law challenge was pending before the three-member panel of the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta. In September, the panel put the case on hold and decided to await the US Supreme Court ruling in the Mississippi Dobbs case.
In July 2020, Jones rejected the Georgia law, leading to the appeal. At the time, Jones felt the law violated a woman’s right to abortion, as established by the precedent in Roe v. Wade.
Georgia’s new law allows abortions after a doctor detects fetal heart activity in cases of rape, incest, if the woman’s life is in danger, or in cases of “medical futility,” when a fetus could not survive. An official report is required for a later abortion if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest.
Once the Supreme Court ruled in the Mississippi case, it was always likely that Georgia’s law would be upheld. The only question was when and how.
Attorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia, who sued the state on behalf of abortion rights advocates and providers, called the recent abortion statements “shameful.”
“It is appalling that extremist politicians and judges have forced pregnant people and their caregivers into this nightmare,” said Julia Kaye, staff attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project. “We will continue to use every resource at our disposal to fight for abortion access in Georgia and across the country, so that everyone has the power to decide if and when to have a child.”
Georgia’s new law differs from other states’ “heartbeat” statutes in that it contains so-called personality determinations, extending rights to an embryo once fetal heart activity can be detected. Parents could claim a fetus, once a heartbeat is detected, on their state income taxes as dependents, and the measure would also require state officials to count an unborn child among the Georgian population. Mothers can also claim child support once heart activity is detected.
Since the appeals court has ruled that the Georgian law must come into effect, government agencies — such as the Department of Revenue, the Division of Child Support Services, and the Georgia State Patrol — will have to figure out how to enforce and enforce these personality traits.