In May of this year, Georgia passed a series of hindering restrictions on abortion. This was met with an immediate wave of outrage from women and men across the state. Protests, petitions, and lawsuits soon confronted the state capitol. Georgias Abortion ban, House Bill 481, can solely be articulated as an affront to the long-fought battle for women’s access to fair and equitable healthcare as established by the Supreme Court from the first documented case regarding reproductive rights in 1965 to the monumental Roe v. Wade decision in 1973. The courts have considered the question of what constituted “undue burdens” on those attempting to seek abortions, and have established total freedom speech for abortion advertisers and counter-protests alike. All this to say the court has been abundantly clear, women have a right to privacy as established by the 14th amendment. The state has no place in a women’s decision with her physicians and nurses. When the “Heartbeat Bill” was passed it was done so in full knowledge of its unconstitutionality. Not only does the law deny women fundamental bodily autonomy, but it also presents a wide-scale economic threat to Georgia. Organizations like the ACLU and the Feminist Women’s Health Center have filed against the state. However, the daunting reality is that bigoted Georgia legislators hoped for a legal response so that the new conservative makeup of the Supreme Court would, on a national scale, ban abortion and thus make sweeping action in efforts to oppress women and legally enforce their personal agenda on the female population.
Georgia’s Heartbeat Bill defines a fetus with a detectable “heartbeat” as a natural person, bans abortion after 6 weeks with exceptions for rape and incest, and introduces possible murder charges for anyone receiving or involved in an abortion outside the boundaries of these requirements. Establishing “personhood” to a fetus is an issue widely contested and addressed by the Supreme Court. Roe v Wade established the viability of a fetus after 22 weeks. Georgia claims that at 6 weeks, when a fetus has what is medically referred to as cardio activity detectable from fetal pole tissue, the fetus is thus established as an individual person beneath the law. The use of “heartbeat” is an emotional and inaccurate misnomer; this is not a cardiac movement which is medically referred to as the detection of a heartbeat. Furthermore, the limitation of 6 weeks is particularly egregious, as this is traditionally a time when women are not yet aware they are pregnant. Remarkably, should a woman attempt to exercise her right to choose prior to these absurd boundaries she can be charged with murder, her physician as an accessory, and if she attempts to leave the state to obtain a legal abortion elsewhere and is caught she can be charged with attempted murder. Mandating all women endure the mental and physical toll of carrying a child when one is not willing nor equipped to carry a child, is in truth an act of violence against women.
The national reactions to state abortion bans have been primarily negative. However, public discontent with Georgia legislature is a uniquely profound burden on state finance. In recent years, Georgia has become a hub for the entertainment industry, supplying thousands of jobs for Georgia workers. However, companies within this liberal industry including Netflix, Warner, and Disney have threatened to pull all businesses from Georgia should the bill go into effect in January of 2020. Ironically, Governor Brian Kemp campaigned on a “friendly to business” platform, yet this bill will potentially drain millions of dollars from the state. While the social harms of the bill ought to be enough to incite outrage, the added economic impact adds to the offenses of the bill.
The ACLU has filed a lawsuit against the bill in Georgia’s District Court, while this is the sole possible reaction to defend the rights of women any legal action poses a possibility to reach the Supreme Court. As of now, the Supreme Court is made up of five conservative justices and four liberal justices. The fear that this conservative majority will result in a disregard for the precedent set by Roe is in no way unreasonable. With the resignation of Justice Kennedy, a key swing vote was lost in the Court and replaced with a Justice in favor of repealing Roe.
The disgusting reality is that it appears conservatives have reached a moment of profound opportunity. National condemnation of abortion would have been significantly more difficult before the appointment of Justice Kavanaugh, yet it is seemingly now a reasonable goal. Conservative states have seized the occasion, with complete disregard for the legality of their actions and expectation that the courts change the law. The state is using women’s rights as a political tactic to achieve portions of their own agenda. Georgia is a state where healthcare for women, especially those of color is dismal, and this solely adds to their strife. Georgians have gathered in strikingly immense numbers to oppose the bill and they will do so in equal fashion when it is time to vote out oppressive forces. Regardless of one’s personal beliefs, every woman should have the right to choose for themselves. Any attempt to conflate one’s personal private beliefs with mandated public policy is immoral and unamerican. The cause for women’s liberation from oppressive forces is alive and well and is now accompanied by the force of industry and a deeply motivated social climate.