ATLANTA (CN) — Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed one of the country’s strictest abortion bills into law Tuesday morning, limiting a woman’s ability to get an abortion in the Peach State after six weeks of pregnancy.
Kemp, a Republican, said he was signing the bill “to ensure that all Georgians have the opportunity to live, grow, learn and prosper in our great state.”
Several organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia and the Center for Reproductive Rights, have already announced their intention to sue over the controversial new law.
The Georgia House of Representatives passed the Living Infants Fairness and Equality, or LIFE, Act on March 29 in a 92-78 vote after it was approved in the state Senate the week before.
The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, 2020, will outlaw abortions after doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat, usually at about six weeks of pregnancy – before most women even know they are pregnant.
Under the LIFE Act, a fetus in Georgia will be recognized as a natural person and human being once a heartbeat is detected.
Fetuses will therefore be included in the state’s population, can be named as dependents in tax filings, and can recover damages in civil lawsuits filed on their behalf.
The law includes exceptions for rape, incest and if the mother’s life is in danger or a doctor determines the fetus will not survive after birth. However, a woman who has become pregnant as a result of rape or incest would have to file an official police report to be eligible for an abortion.
Governor Kemp said the new law is “a declaration that all life has value, all life matters, and all life is worthy of protection.”
“I realize that some may challenge it in a court of law. But our job is to do what is right, not what is easy,” he said.
Existing Georgia law allows women to receive an abortion during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.
The LIFE Act is the fourth fetal-heartbeat law to be passed in the United States this year. Similar bills in Ohio, Mississippi and Kentucky were blocked by legal challenges before they took effect.
The laws run up against the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe v. Wade, which allows women to have abortions until a fetus is viable outside the womb, usually at about 24 weeks into a pregnancy.
But supporters of the new law are hoping that Georgia’s legislation will be the case that leads the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.
“We will not back down. We will always continue to fight for life,” Kemp said prior to signing the bill Tuesday.
The bill signing appears to mark the beginning of what will surely be a costly and lengthy legal battle over the law’s constitutionality.
“We will act to block this assault on women’s health, rights, and self-determination,” Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement Tuesday.
“Women are leaders in this state, a state that for 50 years has respected a woman’s right to make her own reproductive health decisions. Today’s women can only thrive in a state that protects their most basic rights — the right to choose when and whether to start or expand a family. Georgia can’t afford to go backwards on women’s health and rights,” Young said.
Staci Fox, the president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said Tuesday in a statement directed at the governor: “We’ll see you in court.”