Georgia heartbeat bill signed into law

shutterstock 194972387 Gold dome of Georgia Capitol in Atlanta. Via Shutterstock.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp has approved a controversial law that bans abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. The law will come in to force January 1, but is expected to be the subject of immediate legal challenge from abortion activists.

The Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act will limit abortion in the state of Georgia to about the first six weeks of gestation. Presently, abortion is legal in the state until the 20th week of a pregnancy.

"We stand up and speak for those unable to speak for themselves. The LIFE Act is very simple, but also very powerful," said Kemp prior to signing the bill.

The bill is "a declaration that all life has value, that all life matters, that all life is worthy of protection," he said.

Francis J. Mulcahy, the executive director of the Georgia Catholic Conference, said in a statement provided to CNA that the bishops were fully behind the bill and are pleased that Kemp signed it into law.

"The Catholic Bishops of Georgia supported this bill and commend Governor Kemp for signing it," said Mulcahy. The bishops said this law is a step forward compared to the present situation in the state, and "will bring protection of unborn human life to a point closer to conception than current law."

The American Civil Liberties Union has previously promised to fight the LIFE Act in court if the governor signed it into law. Other states have seen similar legislation struck down as unconstitutional by the courts following expensive legal battles.

Given the expensive legal processes which have followed the passage of heartbeat bills, many pro-life advocates, including some bishops, have witheld support from the measures, advocating instead for so-called "trigger laws" which would ban abortion in the event that Roe v Wade is overturned.  

Kemp acknowledged the imminent legal battle, saying that he knew many people did not agree with the law.

 "I realize that some may challenge it in the court of law. But our job is to do what is right, not what is easy," he said.

While the Georgia law is not the first such measure to be passed at the state level, it drew national attention following public opposition by actress Alyssa Milano.

Milano, who appeared on the television show "Who's the Boss?" and in the direct-to-video movie "Lady and the Tramp II: Scamp's Adventure," had threatened to organize a state-wide boycott by the film and television industry should Kemp sign the bill.

Georgia has a favorable state tax structure for TV and film production, and now attracts a larger share of the industry than Hollywood.

"We've always found (Georgia) to be populated with friendly and caring people," said Milano in March. "We've found the hotels in which we stay and restaurants in which we dine while filming there to be comfortable and of a high quality. We've been glad to bring billions of dollars in revenue to support Georgia's schools, parks, and communities."

"But we cannot in good conscience continue to recommend our industry remain in Georgia if H.B. 481 becomes law," she added.

Thus far, a boycott has failed to materialize, and many television shows and movies are still scheduled to be shot in Georgia in the coming months. A similar boycott was threatened following the election of Kemp but failed to materialize.

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