Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed a controversial abortion bill Tuesday that bans abortion as early as six weeks, over protests from reproductive rights groups and Hollywood stars.
The so-called “heartbeat” law bans abortion once a fetal heartbeat can be detected—in some cases, as early as six weeks gestation. Reproductive rights advocates say the law is essentially a ban on abortion, as most women do not know they are pregnant that early. Abortion foes see it as a means to challenge Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion across the country.
The Georgia legislation is the fourth such law to be passed this year, but heartbeat measures in Ohio, Mississippi, and Kentucky were all blocked by legal challenges before they could be enacted. Both the ACLU and Center for Reproductive Rights said Tuesday that they will sue to block the law in Georgia as well.
“Governor Kemp put politics before the health and well-being of Georgia women and their families,” Talcott Camp, deputy director of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement. “This bill is part of an orchestrated national agenda to push abortion care out of reach and we won’t stand for it.”
The Georgia law has drawn increased scrutiny because of the state’s prominent role in the film industry. Actress Alyssa Milano led more than 30 Georgia-based film and TV workers in a protest of the bill at the state capital in April, where she declared they would do “everything in our power to move our industry to a safer state” if the bill became law.
Others have called on Netflix to move all filming out of the state. The streaming service previously stopped filming in North Carolina after the state passed a law that many said was discriminatory towards transgender people. Netflix did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the Georgia law.
The first “heartbeat” bill was considered an extreme proposition when it was first proposed in 2011, even by some in the anti-abortion movement. But the legislation has seen a surge in popularity since 2018, as states race to bring a challenge to Roe v. Wade before the new conservative majority on the U.S. Supreme Court. The last year alone saw a 63 percent increase in the introduction of heartbeat bills, according to the Guttmacher Institute.
Georgia Right to Life—part of an anti-abortion group that opposed the heartbeat bill when it was first introduced in Ohio—now says the legislation doesn’t go far enough. Executive Director Genevieve Wilson told CNN that the group "believes in promoting social justice for all preborn children, without exception."
But medical groups like the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and Physicians for Reproductive Health say the law unnecessarily interferes in the provision of medical care.
“Six-weeks is before most of my patients even know they are pregnant,” Dr. Tiffany Hailstorks, an OBGYN in Georgia and Fellow with Physicians for Reproductive Health, said in a statement. “I fear for the well-being of the patients I serve because as we know full well, when abortion is not an option, women and babies have poorer health outcomes, including higher rates of maternal and infant mortality.”