A federal judge on Tuesday halted Georgia’s “heartbeat bill” abortion ban from going into effect.
Judge Steve Jones of the Northern District Court of Georgia wrote in his ruling October 1 that “in light of binding precedent,” the plaintiffs met the requirements for an injunction on the state’s abortion law to be granted.
The Georgia state legislature in March had passed the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act (H.B. 481), banning abortions after the detection of a baby’s heartbeat, which usually occurs between six to eight weeks of pregnancy. Exceptions were made for cases of rape, a threat to the life of the mother, or if the baby is “diagnosed as medically futile.”
The law, signed by Governor Brian Kemp (R), requires doctors to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion. It also recognizes unborn children as “natural persons” and grants “dependent minor” tax status of “an unborn child at any stage of development who is carried in the womb.”
Other states have passed similar versions of “heartbeat bills” this year including in Missouri, Kentucky, Ohio, and Mississippi, and Iowa and North Dakota have previously enacted similar bans.
So far, court intervention has prevented any of the laws from coming into force: the Iowa and North Dakota bans were struck down and judges have blocked laws in, Missouri, Mississippi, Kentucky, and Ohio from going into effect.
The Georgia Catholic Conference supported the legislation while it was being considered in the state legislature, noting that “[w]hile we understand life to begin at conception, not heartbeat, this language is as close as the authors think we can come and still withstand challenge in court.”
The American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood had sued to stop the bill in court. On Tuesday, the legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, Sean J. Young, stated that “[e]veryone is entitled to their own opinion, but every woman is entitled to her own decision.”
Entertainers and entertainment companies publicly opposed the law’s enactment, threatening or carrying out a boycott in the state.
Actress Alyssa Milano, who appeared in the 2017 TV miniseries “Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later,” authored an open letter, along with 50 other entertainers, to Gov. Kemp demanding he not sign the bill and threatening to lead an industry boycott of the state if he did. At the time, Milano was filming the television series “Insatiable” in the state but said she would consider her role in future series if filming remained in Georgia.
The bill’s enactment led to several large media companies announcing—or considering—that they would no longer do business in the state if the bill came into force.
Three companies—Blown Deadline, Killer Films, and Duplass Brothers Production—said they would not do business in the state although they had not done so before the bill’s passage.
Other production companies WarnerMedia, Disney, and Netflix announced they were considering pulling production out of Georgia. Viacom, Sony, CBS, NBCUniversal, and AMC also spoke out against the ban and threatened to boycott the state.