Georgia's Republican Gov. Kemp signs early abortion ban

ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia's Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation on Tuesday banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can be as early as six weeks, before many women know they're pregnant.

Kemp said he was signing the bill "to ensure that all Georgians have the opportunity to live, grow, learn and prosper in our great state."

The signing caps weeks of tension and protests at the state Capitol, and begins could be a lengthy and costly legal battle over the law's constitutionality.

But a legal showdown is exactly what supporters are looking for, and Kemp said "we will not back down. We will always continue to fight for life."

Anti-abortion activists and lawmakers across the country , energized by the new conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court that includes President Donald Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, are pushing abortion bans in an attack on the high court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling, which legalized abortion nationwide until a fetus is developed enough to live outside a woman's uterus.

Staci Fox, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said she has "one message for Governor Kemp: We'll see you in court."

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FILE PHOTO: Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp speaks with visitors to the state capitol about the "SEC primary" involving a group of southern states voting next month in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., February 24, 2016. REUTERS/Letitia Stein/File Photo
Vice President Mike Pence, left, and Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp greet the crowd during a "Get Out The Vote" rally at the Dalton Convention Center on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018 in Dalton, Ga. Republican Brian Kemp is facing off against Democrat Stacey Abrams for governor in Georgia.(C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp waves to the crowd during a "Get Out The Vote" rally at the Dalton Convention Center on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018 in Dalton, Ga. Republican Brian Kemp is facing off against Democrat Stacey Abrams for governor in Georgia.(C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp waves to his supporters during a Get Out The Vote rally at Dalton Convention Center in Dalton on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. Kemp is trying to extend the Republican domination in Georgia, which hasn't elected a Democrat as governor since 1998. He's banking on running up wide margins outside metro Atlanta and holding most of the GOP votes closer to the city. (Hyosub Shin /Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
Vice President Mike Pence and GOP gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp wave to supporters at Dalton Convention Center in Dalton, Ga., on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018. Kemp is trying to extend the Republican domination in Georgia, which hasn't elected a Democrat as governor since 1998. He's banking on running up wide margins outside metro Atlanta and holding most of the GOP votes closer to the city. (Hyosub Shin /Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
People hold up signs for Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp during a rally at the Dalton Convention Center on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018, in Dalton, Ga. Kemp is facing off against Democrat Stacey Abrams for governor in Georgia. (C.B. Schmelter/Chattanooga Times Free Press via AP)
Republican gubernatorial candidate for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp, center, speaks as Democrat Stacey Abrams, left, and Libertarian Ted Metz look on during a debate Tuesday, Oct. 23, 2018, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, Pool)
Georgia Pubic Service Commission Chairman Lauren "Bubba'" McDonald, left, sings as he stands on stage with Donald Trump Jr., Kimberly Guilfoyle and Republican nominee for Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, right, Tuesday, Oct. 9, 2018, in Athens, Ga. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)
Brian Kemp, the Republican nominee for Georgia governor, answers questions Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, during an appearance at a conference of the Georgia Economic Developers Association in Savannah, Ga. Kemp faces Democrat Stacey Abrams in the general election Nov. 6, 2018. (AP Photo/Russ Bynum)
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Planned Parenthood's statement says the bill "criminalizes doctors who provide life-saving care" and "allows the state to investigate women for having miscarriages." The organization vowed Tuesday to campaign to unseat the lawmakers who supported it, saying "They will be held accountable for playing politics with women's health."

ACLU of Georgia legal director Sean Young told The Associated Press 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," Young added.

Under current law, women in Georgia can seek an abortion during the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy. If it's not blocked in court, the new ban would take effect Jan. 1, 2020.

HB 481 makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest — if the woman files a police report first — and to save the life of the mother. It also would allow for abortions when a fetus is determined not to be viable because of serious medical issues.

The bill also deals with alimony, child support and even income tax deductions for fetuses, declaring that "the full value of a child begins at the point when a detectable human heartbeat exists."

Republican Rep. Ed Setzler, the bill's author, called it a "common sense" measure that seeks to "balance the difficult circumstances women find themselves in with the basic right to life of a child."

But Democratic Sen. Jen Jordan said "there's nothing balanced about it: It's an all-out abortion ban."

Jordan said she is particularly worried that the new law will push obstetricians away from practicing in Georgia, worsening health care outcomes for women in a state that already has one of the nation's worst maternal mortality rates.

"It's about the unintended consequences," Jordan said. "They're making policy choices that are going to end up causing women to die, and they're preventable deaths."

In the first few months of 2019, "heartbeat abortion" bans have been signed into law in four states: Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio, and now Georgia. Lawmakers in 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 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.

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