Heartbeat Bill: Struck Down but Not Defeated

One of the most important pieces of legislation passed the Georgia legislature in 2019. It was HB 481, The LIFE ACT (Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act), also known as the Heartbeat Bill. Soon after Governor Brian Kemp signed it into law, a lawsuit was filed against it in Federal Court.  

Federal District Judge Steve C. Jones, (U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Georgia) issued a temporary injunction that prevented the LIFE Act from going into effect (which was scheduled January 1, 2020). Because of the injunction, only the laws surrounding abortion prior to the passage of HB 481 were still valid.

On June 15, Judge Jones had a hearing where both sides made the arguments for and against the law. The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia led in the lawsuit and represented Sister Song Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective and several abortion providers and advocacy groups. After the state made its case for the law, Judge Jones made the decision to delay making a formal ruling until other Supreme Court rulings where declared.

One of the reasons the judge wanted to delay was to hear the Supreme Court ruling on a Louisiana abortion case. That case before the court would rule on whether lawsuits could be brought from third parties on behalf of abortion rights cases. In other words, he wanted to find out if abortion providers could sue on behalf of women to be able to continue to perform their abortions.

Because of the Supreme Court ruling last month and other concerns, Judge Jones decided on Monday, July 13, to strike down the Georgia Heartbeat Law. His primary reasoning was that women have a constitutional right to an abortion based upon the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade.

Troubling Heartbeat Bill Decision

This ruling is troubling for two important reasons: 1) Abortion providers were allowed to sue on behalf of women and 2) the federal judge in this case chose to ignore the fact that the law acknowledged the legal personhood of a child in the womb at approximately six weeks. In 1973, the Supreme Court in its Roe v. Wade ruling did state the fact that if the personhood of a preborn baby could be established, the abortion rights case would collapse. The Georgia law did establish that fact and the right for protection at the moment a baby’s heartbeat is detected in a mother’s womb.

Therefore, Judge Jones’ ruling ignored the fact that the “personhood” of the unborn communicates that a child in the womb possess a unique DNA, a circulatory system, and blood type. In addition, this ruling denies new benefits to expecting mothers, like access to child support and a tax deduction. This law was designed to provide the unborn child with the same rights that we all have and cherish.

So, the bad news is that the law has been struck down. The good news is that the fight is a long way from being over! We may have lost this battle with this court, but the war still wages. Governor Brian Kemp himself said in a statement that he put out after the ruling: “We will appeal the court’s decision. Georgia values life and will keep fighting for the rights of the unborn.”

Representative Ed Setzler, author of “The Life Act,” told Richard Elliot with WSB-TV that “he believes the law is constitutional and is ready for the appeals, even all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Setzler said, “This is a long process. This is just the first step of very many. I think they’re a solid foundation. I think the higher courts are going to recognize that before it’s all said and done.”

As many know – and fully expected – this process is long and labor intensive. Since the court has struck down The Life Act, the state will appeal to the 11th Circuit Court. There are several steps after that, but much depends on what happens elsewhere and the eventual willingness of the Supreme Court.

It is not a time to lose hope. We must continue to fight for life … and support our lawmakers/elected officials who stand for life. We need to make sure that we back those pro-life legislators for re-election who support legislation like The Life Act and those on a federal level so we can insure pro-life Justices on the Supreme Court!

Now is the time to stand, pray, and defend innocent life! The law has been struck down, but it is not defeated!

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Published July 20, 2020