Yves here. Unusually, an article means to rouse (well-deserved) ire, this Common Dreams piece appears to assume that its readers are fully up to speed on the draconian Georgia abortion law, H.B.481. Not only does it set an impossibly tight window for getting a legal abortion (as in before many women would realize they were pregnant) but as the the article below does usefully explain, uses a bogus cutoff standard of a fetal heartbeat, when the early-in-first-trimester electrical signals claimed to be a heartbeat typically can’t be given the state of development.
What the article skips over are the draconian punishments for women who obtain abortions for fetuses deemed to have heartbeats. In Alabama, it’s MDs who are sanctioned for giving deemed-to-be-illegal abortions (allowed only in cases of endangerment of the mother, rape, or incest). In Georgia, the mother is subject to the death penalty for getting an abortions. From Slate in 2019:
On Tuesday, Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed a “fetal heartbeat” bill that seeks to outlaw abortion after about six weeks. The measure, HB 481, is the most extreme abortion ban in the country—not just because it would impose severe limitations on women’s reproductive rights, but also because it would subject women who get illegal abortions to life imprisonment and the death penalty.
The primary purpose of HB 481 is to prohibit doctors from terminating any pregnancy after they can detect “embryonic or fetal cardiac activity,” which typically occurs at six weeks’ gestation. But the bill does far more than that. In one sweeping provision, it declares that “unborn children are a class of living, distinct person” that deserves “full legal recognition.” Thus, Georgia law must “recognize unborn children as natural persons”—not just for the purposes of abortion, but as a legal rule….
And a woman who miscarries because of her own conduct—say, using drugs while pregnant—would be liable for second-degree murder, punishable by 10 to 30 years’ imprisonment. Prosecutors may interrogate women who miscarry to determine whether they can be held responsible; if they find evidence of culpability, they may charge, detain, and try these women for the death of their fetuses.
Slate also points out that the sponsors of this law haven’t thought things through:
This radical revision of Georgia law is quite deliberate: The bill confirms that fetuses “shall be included in population based determinations” from now on, because they are legally humans, and residents of the state. But it is not clear whether the bill’s drafters contemplated the more dramatic consequences of granting legal personhood to fetuses. For instance, as Georgia appellate attorney Andrew Fleischman has pointed out, the moment this bill takes effect on Jan. 1, 2020, the state will be illegally holding thousands of citizens in jail without bond. That’s because, under HB 481, pregnant inmates’ fetuses have independent rights—including the right to due process. Can a juvenile attorney represent an inmate’s fetus and demand its release? If not, why? It is an egregious due process violation to punish one human for the crimes of another. If an inmate’s fetus is a human, how can Georgia lawfully detain it for a crime it did not commit?
Finally, what bothers me is that despite the considerable upset and concern about these retrograde laws, I don’t see any serious discussion, let alone evidence of action, about creating an underground railroad for women who want abortions. For instance, I see the Planned Parenthood pledge of the “We’re here to help” sort not just as disingenuous but actively putting women at risk. If a woman in Georgia leaves the state to have an abortion and returns to Georgia, she is subject to prosecution for murder in Georgia., particularly if she left fingerprints, like buying a pregnancy test. See NoLo:
Usually, any state in which an essential part of a crime has been committed can prosecute the offender. That means that authorities in each affected state can prosecute a crime that stretches from one territory to another. The double jeopardy prohibition doesn’t apply to separate “sovereigns,” meaning that this kind of multiple prosecution doesn’t run afoul of the Constitution. In fact, it’s at least theoretically possible that multiple states and the federal government could prosecute a defendant for a single course of conduct.
And what happens when jealous boyfriends accuse their exes of having gotten pregnant by them, whether or not that happened?
I see a dearth of practical advice that is sufficiently cognizant of the legal and surveillance exposures: How can pregnant women communicate safely? Get transportation out of state? And if need be, get help in moving permanently to a state that is less hostile to women? Women and men who support abortion should be coming up with methods to help these women navigate so their actions (information gathering and movement) will be well-hidden in a flow of non-abortion-related activity.
I’m appalled not only by the false pretenses of concern by bourgeois feminists, but also the lack of any self-reflection or self-recrimination for how their complacency meant their was no meaningful resistance as the right, over fifty years, strategized and campaigned relentlessly to achieve their goal.
By Brett Wilkins, a staff writer at Common Dreams. Originally published at Common Dreams
Abortion rights defenders on Wednesday were down but determined after a federal appeals court lifted an injunction on Georgia’s six-week abortion ban, allowing the draconian law to take immediate effect.
Writing for a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge William Pryor saidthat the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organizationruling voidingnearly 50 years of constitutional abortion rights “makes clear that no right to abortion exists under the Constitution, so Georgia may prohibit them.”
Pryor—a George W. Bush appointee who once called Roe v. Wade“the worst abomination in the history of constitutional law”—added that “it is hard to see any vagueness” in H.B. 481, the 2019 Georgia anti-choice law that “defines a natural person to include unborn humans in the womb at any stage of development.”
While Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he was “overjoyed” by the ruling, state Sen. Michelle Au (D-48), who is also a physician, tweeted, “What this means is that in Georgia, patients sitting in a waiting room RIGHT NOW, waiting for abortion care that was legal just this morning when they arrived, now have lost their right to that medical care and control over their own bodies.”
“Just like that,” she added. “Gone.”
Crushing news: Georgia’s 6-week ban will go into effect later this summer, banning abortion before many people even know they’re pregnant & forcing people to travel hundreds of miles for care.
You shouldn’t have to leave your state to access an abortion. https://t.co/knq2ilExrC
— Planned Parenthood Action (@PPact) July 20, 2022
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports:
Georgia’s new law is different from other states’ “heartbeat” statutes because it includes so-called personhood provisions, where rights are extended to an embryo once fetal cardiac activity can be detected. Parents would be able to claim a fetus, once a heartbeat is detected, on their state income taxes as a dependent, and the measure would also require state officials to count an unborn child toward Georgia’s population. Mothers can also file for child support once cardiac activity is detected.
Experts have noted that fetal “heartbeat” laws are inherently flawed, as what’s being detected in a six-week-old fetus is little more than cells and electrical activity.
It’s very bad and a very big deal that this six-week abortion ban in Georgia has a personhood provision. We haven’t even begin to countenance how legal fetal and embryonic “personhood” would warp and limit women’s lives. https://t.co/l1ZO92cN4h
— Moira Donegan (@MoiraDonegan) July 20, 2022
Earlier this month, a federal judge blocked enforcement of Arizona’s so-called “personhood” law.
The implementation of Georgia’s six-week ban comes as an effort to codify reproductive rights nationwide via the House-approved Women’s Health Protection Act has stalled amid opposition from Senate Republicans and right-wing Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia.
Planned Parenthood Southeast vice president of external affairs Amy Kennedy saidi n a statement that Wednesday’s ruling is “an affront to our personal rights and goes against the will of the vast majority of Georgians who believe in the bodily autonomy of all in our state.”
“The people have just been robbed of their ability to make the decisions that are best for themselves, their lives, and their futures,” Kennedy continued. “No matter what the courts say, people deserve access to abortion—and Planned Parenthood is here to help you get the care you need. We remain committed to helping Georgians access abortion care, and our doors are open for nonjudgmental information, resources, and financial and logistical support.”