A controversial bill making abortion illegal at as little as six weeks into a pregnancy has become law in the US state of Georgia.
The so-called “heartbeat law” bans termination as soon as a foetal heartbeat can be detected, which can be as early as six weeks, before some women even know they are pregnant.
Georgia, where women can currently seek an abortion during the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy, is the fourth US state to pass such a law in 2019, along with Mississippi, Kentucky and Ohio.
The measure, HB 481, makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest but only if the woman files a police report first.
If the mother’s life is at risk, termination is also permitted, and the legislation allows for abortions when a foetus is determined not to be viable because of serious medical issues.
After signing the bill into law, Georgia’s Republican governor Brian Kemp it would “ensure that all Georgians have the opportunity to live, grow, learn and prosper in our great state”.
Anti-abortion campaigners, encouraged by a conservative majority on the US Supreme Court, are seeking to roll back what they see as a culture where terminations have become too easy.
Abortion rights activists fear the court’s 1973 Roe v Wade ruling, which guaranteed a mother’s right to a legal abortion until a foetus is developed enough to live outside a woman’s uterus, could even be overturned.
Last year a Sky News investigation found women in the US are self-aborting as services are being withdrawn.
Staci Fox, the president and CEO of abortion provider Planned Parenthood Southeast, told Gov Kemp: “We’ll see you in court.”
Ms Fox vowed to campaign against lawmakers who supported the bill, telling them they “will be held accountable for playing politics with women’s health”.
The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) legal director Sean Young said that “under 50 years of Supreme Court precedent, this abortion ban is clearly unconstitutional.
“Every federal court that has heard a challenge to a similar ban has ruled that it’s unconstitutional,” Mr Young added.
The legislation also deals with alimony, child support and even income tax deductions for foetuses, because, it says, “the full value of a child begins at the point when a detectable human heartbeat exists.”
A number of other states including Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Louisiana and West Virginia are considering similar proposals.
A bill that recently passed the Alabama House would outlaw abortions at any stage of pregnancy, with a few narrow exceptions.
Kentucky’s law was immediately challenged by the ACLU after it was signed in March, and a federal judge has temporarily blocked it.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, about 33,000 abortions were provided in Georgia in 2014.
Source: SKY NEWS