By Bridget Fay, Board of DirectorsTwo weeks ago, Georgia passed a landmark "Heartbeat Bill." The law provides that an unborn child is a person once a heartbeat can be detected; in the words of the law, "[i]t shall be the policy of the State of Georgia to recognize unborn children as natural persons," and " [u]nborn child' means a member of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development who is carried in the womb." Such a person, therefore, is protected by the laws of Georgia. The law requires that a physician who is performing an abortion must first check for a fetal heartbeat; if such a heartbeat exists, the abortion cannot be performed absent a medical emergency, threat to the health of the mother, or rape.
Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey assert that a state does not have an interest in protecting unborn children before viability. Georgia's law challenges Roe by providing an alternate point at which the state can protect preborn babies (i.e. the detection of a human heartbeat), which has the merits of being a clear indicator of human life, and being far more objective than the amorphous "viability" standard. Roe's companion case, Doe v. Bolton, establishes a "health exception" for abortion, and absurdly broad contours for such an exception. According to Doe, risks to both mental and physical health, even undiagnosable risks to mental health, are a justification for abortion. The result is that the "exception" overrides any limits a state may put on abortion. The Heartbeat Bill squarely attacks that intellectual dishonesty: it limits such an exception to the "substantial and irreversible physical impairment" of a pregnant woman's body. That exception is clear, objective, and designed to balance the rights of pregnant women with the rights of their preborn children - exactly what Doe purports to do but obviously does not.
The Georgia law is revolutionary in both its recognition of unborn children as human beings and its confrontation of the culture of abortion. It is not just a law that bans abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected; it is a law that expands child support to pregnant mothers. It revises the child homicide laws so that parents may recover for the death of a reborn child, not just a child who has already been born. It even changes the way Georgia handles taxes: expectant parents may list their preborn baby as a dependent minor. The law provides protections for doctors, nurses, and pharmacists who treat pregnant women for unrelated medical problems, if such treatment inadvertently causes a miscarriage.
When pro-lifers talk about creating a "culture of life," we mean an overhaul of the thousands of ways that our culture and laws assume that preborn children aren't people, expectant mothers aren't quite yet mothers, and women will solve their problems via abortion. Georgia's comprehensive attack on the evils of abortion is something that other states can emulate, and its comprehensive reformation of its laws highlight how pervasive abortion has become.
Do you like this post?