Georgia’s ‘Heartbeat Bill’ threatens women’s health

Editorial Board

After controversial discussions over the act’s constitutionality, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the Heartbeat Bill into law on May 7. Starting Jan. 1, the legislation bans abortions in the state after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, as soon as six weeks in some pregnancies. The law will undo current standards that allow women in Georgia access to abortions up to 20 weeks after conception.

Organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), as well as Planned Parenthood, have already announced plans to challenge the legislation in court. Critics of the bill fear the action would risk over- turning Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court case that set a precedent for legal abortions based on a woman’s right to privacy in 1973.

This bill is one of 15 to be introduced, and one of four to be signed into law. Concerns over the unconstitutionality of the bill are rooted in the ruling of Roe v. Wade, affirming that a state cannot ban abortion before viability, around 24 to 28 weeks.

However, the foundations of the heartbeat legislation are found in another ruling of the case, proposing that a states, “in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life, may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe, abortion except where necessary, in appropriate medical judgment, for the preservation of the life or health of the mother.”

We believes that both those in favor and against abortions have valid moral and political reasons. However, we strongly disagree with the bill in its inability to solve the root problem of unplanned pregnancy. If state legislators are against the termination of pregnancies, they must understand that unplanned pregnancy will not disappear with this bill. Unplanned pregnancies will continue. Abortions will not cease to exist, rather they will become deregulated, dangerous and underground. The Heartbeat Bill does not provide increased funding to necessary supplemental programs, so the same people who are against abortion need to be in favor of contraceptives, healthcare and funding for children in state care.

The idea of “right to life” means very little if officials are solely aiming to ensure birth, as opposed to ensuring general welfare through funding to increase food stamps, more comprehensive maternal leave and foster care. As the World Health Organization states, “almost every abortion death and disability could be prevented through sexuality education, use of effective contraception, provision of safe, legal induced abortion and timely care for complications.”

Restricting access to abortion without coupling the action with in- creased sexual education, contraceptive access, and government support for new mothers, the Heartbeat Bill only works to increase issues surrounding unplanned pregnancies, maternal mortality rates due to unsafe abortions, and worsen socioeconomic barriers that cause disparity among the American people. In a state that does not require education about contraceptives, a bill such as this directly threatens the health of the citizens of Georgia.

Women who would seek abortion for economic reasons, mental health reasons or other reasons relating to the inability to care for a child are ignored by the bill. It’s not “pro-life” if you are against objective sex education in schools. It’s not “pro-life” if you are against funding to single, low income mothers.

The Heartbeat Bill does not protect “individual liberties” or the rights of constituents to pursue happiness when crucial supplementary legislation, like sexual education reform and contraceptive access, is not included.