Amid Roe v. Wade controversy, Georgia’s ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion law in limbo

In Florida, overturning Roe v. Wade means a 15-week abortion ban signed into law by the governor would no longer be considered unconstitutional. In Georgia, restrictions could be even tighter under what’s known as the “heartbeat” abortion law, which would ban abortions at about six weeks.

If the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade, a controversial abortion restriction signed into law by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp but later blocked by a federal judge could soon go into effect.

In Florida, overturning Roe v. Wade means a 15-week abortion ban signed into law by the governor would no longer be considered unconstitutional. In Georgia, restrictions could be even tighter under what’s known as the “heartbeat” abortion law, which would ban abortions at about six weeks.

The bill was signed into law in 2019 and blocked by a federal court in 2020. The law, which bans abortions once a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, is effectively in limbo, as an appeals court has declined to rule on it until the Supreme Court makes a decision on another case that could result in Roe v. Wade being overturned or limited.

The Georgia Life Alliance helped lobby for the bill. Martha Zoller is its interim executive director.

“I had my own conversion, if you will, when I saw the first grainy sonogram of my baby. And I saw that heartbeat,” Zoller said.

That usually happens about five-and-a-half or six weeks into a pregnancy, which falls short of the roughly 24 weeks protected under Roe v. Wade.

Julie Jordan, who is the chair of the Democratic Party in Glynn County, says if the Supreme Court does overturn Roe, abortions will still happen despite tighter restrictions in Georgia, either illegally or in clinics elsewhere.

″It’s going to devastate women across Georgia and across, you know, the United States that don’t have access,” Jordan said.

A January poll from the Atlanta Journal Constitution found about 68% of Georgia voters oppose overturning Roe v. Wade. As for the state law hanging in the balance, the poll found about 49% oppose it, about 44% support it, with nearly 6% remaining neutral.

According to reproductive advocacy group the Guttmacher Institute, more than 36,000 abortions were performed in Georgia in 2017, and nearly one in four women will have an abortion by age 45.

Sherrly Taylor, who lives in Brunswick, is one of them. She said she had an abortion in her 20s when she was already a mother to a few children. She said a family member pressured her to get an abortion.

“She’s like, ‘you’ve already got kids,’ but I couldn’t see the light that I was doing was sin. I did a sin,” Taylor said.

She said she regrets it – and would like to see abortion banned.

The Supreme Court is expected to announce its final decision on Roe v. Wade this summer.


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