Yesterday the 11th Circuit lifted immediately an injunction from the lower courts on Georgia’s Heartbeat Bill – HB 481, making it law in Georgia. The statute, known as the “Heartbeat Bill” provides that unborn persons have equal rights with born humans. An unborn child becomes a person upon a detectable heartbeat determined (unscientifically) to be at six weeks. Oddly, the bill references the 14th Amendment and its substantive due process inalienable rights of “life, liberty and property”. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas in his concurring opinion in the Roe v. Wade destruction case Dobbs vs. Jackson Health held that the US Constitution provides no substantive due process rights. Nevertheless, a fetus now has these rights of equal (actually greater status) than the mother.
Per the statute, abortions after six weeks are illegal. These exceptions apply. Abortion is allowed to remove a dead unborn child caused by a spontaneous abortion. Here is an important word: dead. Women incurring a miscarriage will not be medically treated to remove the fetus, but rather will continue to have their health weighed against the balance of a heartbeat until death can be determined. Again, the health of the mother is now, legally, secondary, to a fetus during a miscarriage.
An abortion to remove an ectopic pregnancy is an exception to the abortion rule. The ectopic pregnancy is a non-viable pregnancy certain to cause the death of the mother. Very generous of the legislature. Wild applause.
Abortion is allowed for a “medical emergency”. “Medical emergency” is defined as “necessary in order to prevent the death of the pregnant woman or the substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” What constitutes “necessary to prevent her death”? Does this include a woman diagnosed with a Stage 1 cancer? Can she start cancer treatment or is she required to wait out the pregnancy at the risk of her life? Must a woman with uncontrolled diabetes, atrial fibrillation, lupus, epilepsy, cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy, or multiple sclerosis lose her choice between her health and a pregnancy? Second, what constitutes “substantial and irreversible”? Is stage III cancer “substantial and irreversible”? The fetus now has a right greater than that of a woman. Women are no longer allowed to make healthcare decisions in their best interest. And women are not allowed the freedom to weigh the risks of decisions. The Georgia Legislature now makes the call.
Importantly, no allowance is made for the mental and emotional health of the mother. She must carry a baby to term even if she is mentally unstable or – get this – suicidal. The legislature values her uterus more than her own life if her mental instability renders her life in jeopardy. Imagine Andrea Yates, mother of five, who suffered mentally with post-partum depression, post-partum psychosis and schizophrenia after each pregnancy. Despite being advised not to have more children, she and her husband continued to have children. She drowned all of them in the bathtub. Women in Georgia who suffer from post-partum depression, psychosis and schizophrenia are not allowed to make mental health reproductive decisions.
Where the probable gestational age of the child is twenty weeks and the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest AND a police report has been filed alleging rape or incest, an abortion is allowed. Women now must choose between filing a police report or bearing their rapist’s baby. Women or girls who are victims of rape or incest might not want to press charges against a known individual, family friend or relative; might fear retaliation, public ostracism, personal shame and humiliation or even possible charges or probation violation for her own behavior if it involved something such as underage alcohol use or drug possession. Finally, what ten year old victim of incest is going to have the ability, requisite knowledge or parental consent to file a police report? The state legislature has authorized forced birth for her. That is effectively child abuse.
Abortion is allowed for a “medically futile” pregnancy. Medically futile is defined as “a profound and irremediable congenital or chromosomal anomaly that is incompatible with sustaining life after birth”. Now parents confronted with a medically disabled child in utero have no option, no matter their personal circumstance, but to care for a medically disabled child or place the child up for adoption. The adoption rates for severely medically disabled children are not high. The National Adoption Center cites that 60 percent of children in out-of-home care (e.g. foster care, group homes) are special needs children.
Welcome to the state of Gilead, women and young girls of Georgia. Blessed be the fruit. Take your bodies to the polls in November. We must cast a vote for body autonomy because Georgia Republicans do not think we deserve this basic human right.