Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a bill on May 7 outlawing abortions once a doctor can detect a heartbeat in the unborn child.
Kemp, a Republican, became the fourth governor in the country to sign such a bill in the past year, joining the governors of Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio. Iowa enacted a similar bill last year. Republicans in 10 other states have introduced similar bills.
The Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act allows for later abortions in cases of medical emergencies. In cases of rape or incest, the woman would be required to file an official police report.
“Georgia is a state that values life. We protect the innocent. We champion the vulnerable. We stand up and speak for those unable to speak for themselves,” Kemp said before signing the bill.
Courts have blocked the Iowa and Kentucky laws, and the others face legal challenges. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and the Center for Reproductive Rights have vowed to sue to stop this law.
“This law is bafflingly unconstitutional,” Elisabeth Smith, chief counsel for the center, said in a statement. “Bans like this have always been blocked by courts. We will be suing Georgia to make sure this law has the same fate.”
President Donald Trump appointed two conservative justices to the Supreme Court, improving the chances of limiting or overturning Roe v. Wade, a decision made by the top court that struck down state-level abortion restrictions.
Abortion rights advocates see the so-called “heartbeat bills” as virtual bans because heartbeats can be detected in unborn children as early as six weeks, when mothers may not be aware they are pregnant.
Pro-life advocate Rachel Guy, 20, introduced Kemp before he signed the bill. Guy’s mother was advised by three different doctors to have an abortion in 1998 because her unborn baby (Rachel) was thought to have a chromosomal abnormality that was “incompatible with life,” but she rejected their advice.
“I thank God for this day,” Guy said. “Every day, I fight and I pray that abortion ends, but I truly never thought that we would see a day like this. I thank God for a governor who stands up for the most vulnerable citizens in our state.”
The chasm between Democrats and Republicans has widened since Trump’s election. While Republicans are pushing bills to protect unborn children and babies who survive abortions, Democrats in Congress blocked a measure that would protect babies born alive in the course of an abortion. Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam openly defended an option of killing newborn infants contingent on a discussion between the mother and the doctors.
“Senate Democrats just voted against legislation to prevent the killing of newborn infant children. The Democrat position on abortion is now so extreme that they don’t mind executing babies AFTER birth,” Trump wrote on Twitter in February as Northam faced national backlash about the infanticide comments.
Georgia state Sen. Renee Unterman led a multi-year effort to pass legislation to protect unborn children, and was moved to tears as Kemp signed the bill. She said the law is the “culmination of my political career.”
“I’ve spent a lifetime as a former nurse and a former social worker in the business of saving lives. I’ve spent that whole time as a legislator waiting to get to today. It is very, very emotional,” Unterman said. “I believe in life and I’ve believed in life from the very beginning and that’s what’s given me the courage to persevere.”
Lila Rose, the founder of Live Action, a pro-life nonprofit organization, called the signing of the bill “a huge step forward for life!”
“This law acknowledges the scientific fact that the pro-abortion movement tries desperately to ignore: This is a unique, individual human life in the womb, not a ‘clump of cells;’ and just three weeks after fertilization, the child’s little heart is already beating,” Rose said in a statement.
“It’s time for society and our laws to acknowledge that there are two human beings in a pregnancy—a baby and his or her mother—and both deserve protection.”
Trump has potentially contributed more to the pro-life movement than any of his recent predecessors. In 2018, he became the first sitting president to address the annual pro-life March for Life in Washington.
In addition to appointing two conservative Supreme Court justices, the president has taken a number of other measures to protect unborn children. Shortly after taking office in 2017, Trump reinstated the Mexico City policy, which prohibits the use of taxpayer dollars to aid foreign groups that fund abortion. The Trump administration expanded that policy in April, placing restrictions on U.S. funded groups from supporting abortion abroad.
The Trump administration also finalized a rule in April that bars clinics that refer women for abortions from receiving federal family planning funds. The president also vowed to veto any legislation that “weakens the protection of human life.”
“When we look into the eyes of a newborn child, we see the beauty and the human soul and the majesty of God’s creation. We know that every life has meaning and that every life is worth protecting,” Trump said in an address to March for Life in January.
“As president, I will always defend the first right in our Declaration of Independence—the right to life.”
Reuters contributed to this report.