Women Who Have An Abortion Could Face Life In Prison
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed the most extreme abortion ban nationwide on Tuesday. The measure is a “fetal heartbeat bill,” known as HB 481, that would outlaw abortion after six weeks–which is when a heartbeat is sometimes detected in an embryo, but before a lot of women even know they’re pregnant.
Beside the bill stomping all over women’s reproductive freedom, it also criminalizes the procedure itself, which means women who get an abortion could face life in prison and even the death penalty. If HB 481 takes effect, a woman who terminates her own pregnancy “will have, as a matter of law, killed a human—thereby committing murder.” Under Georgia law, the punishment for that crime is either life imprisonment or capital punishment.
It’s hard to believe, but it gets even worse. HB 481 would also have consequences for women who suffer a miscarriage. If a woman were to miscarry based on her behavior—such as use of drugs or alcohol—she would be liable for second-degree murder, punishable to 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment. Even if a woman opted to leave Georgia to obtain an abortion, she would still be just as liable for punishment in the state and may be charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
Legal experts along with many others have been quick to point out that this bill appears to violate Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that protects a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy until the fetus is viable, typically between 24 and 25 weeks. Lawmakers have already called out the shaky legal ground on which HB 481 sits.
“This law is bafflingly unconstitutional,” said Elisabeth Smith, chief counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, to CBS News. “Bans like this have always been blocked by courts. We will be suing Georgia to make sure this law has the same fate.” Elizabeth Nash, a senior state issues manager at Guttmacher, also told the publication. “The surge in attempts to ban abortion in the earliest stages of pregnancy underscores that the end goal of anti-abortion politicians and activists is to ban all abortion—at any point during pregnancy and for any reason.”
Unfortunately, Georgia isn’t the only state looking to seriously limit access to abortions. In 2019 alone, state lawmakers have introduced more than 250 bills restricting abortion access, according to a study conducted by Planned Parenthood and Guttmacher. Even more jarrring? Six-week abortion bans–like Georgia’s–are up by 62 percent, according to their study.
HB 481 is due to take effect on January 1, 2020.