Last week, lawmakers in Georgia passed H.B. 481 – one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the country – despite threats from Hollywood and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). The bill bans abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which is typically around the 6th week of pregnancy.
As Christian Headlines previously reported, Hollywood was not supportive of the bill. “[H.B. 481] would make Georgia an inhospitable place for those in the film industry to work, including our members,” a statement from the Writer’s Guild of America explained. Nearly 50 TV and film stars also signed a letter to the governor, threatening to no longer work in the state should the bill pass. Several major movies and TV shows have been produced and filmed in Georgia.
“We want to continue to support the wonderful people, businesses and communities we have come to love in the Peach State,” the letter read, as reported by the New York Times. “But we will not do so silently, and we will do everything in our power to move our industry to a safer state for women if H.B. 481 becomes law.”
However, lawmakers were not deterred. The bill passed 92 to 78, according to CNN. Women were previously allowed to abort up until 20 weeks of their pregnancy.
“We have really taken great lengths to balance the legitimate interests of women with the basic right to life of the child,” Rep. Ed Setzler said to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. This bill is a response, for some, to a New York law that increased access to abortion earlier this year. “We are not like New York or Virginia,” Senate Science and Technology Chairwoman Renee Unterman said. “We will not throw away children who aren’t perfect because all children are perfect in the eyes of God.”
ACLU will pursue legal action against the state. “[The legislation] would ban safe, legal abortion and criminalize the most intimate decision women and couples make,” a statement from the group said.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports that the bill has given fire to the Democrats. “Come 2020, this bill will help elect more women,” said freshman state Sen. Sally Harrell, an Atlanta Democrat. “Vote yes for this bill and we’re coming for your seats because that’s how democracy works.”
The bill does allow a few exceptions for women to abort, in cases of a “medically futile” pregnancy, where the child will not be able to live after birth, and in cases of rape or incest when a police report has been filed. Georgia Right to Life, a pro-life group, could not support the bill with those exceptions. Genevieve Wilson, a spokeswoman for Georgia Right to Life, said to the New York Times, “While H.B. 481 contains some strong personhood components, such as declaring babies in the womb natural persons, we are very saddened that it also denies equal justice and equal protection for subclasses of children in the womb.”
The debate surrounding this bill has been explosive. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the vote had “the largest police presence in recent memory” with bomb dogs searching the rooms before the hearings and police escorting Renee Unterman, who shepherded the bill, to her car.
The New York Times reported that the bill is a continuation of several states attempting to pass restrictive abortion laws. Mississippi and Kentucky have signed fetal heartbeat measures into law; Florida, Missouri, Ohio, Tennessee and Texas are planning to do the same this year. However, in Kentucky, Iowa and North Dakota, the bills were stopped in court.
Despite that abortion is legal because of the Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade, these restrictive bills are still becoming law. Abortion opponents hope this allows them to “land a new case before the Supreme Court” to destroy or weaken Roe v. Wade, according to the New York Times.
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Mikaela Mathews is a freelance writer and editor based in Dallas, TX. She was the editor of a local magazine and a contributing writer for the Galveston Daily News and Spirit Magazine. She blogs at mikaelamathews.com.