- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Tuesday signed a ban on abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, a move that virtually ends the practice in the state and ensures a legal challenge that could make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mr. Kemp, a Republican, acknowledged the new law’s likely uphill fight in federal courts, saying Georgia will “always continue to fight for life.”

“We will not back down,” the governor said. “We will always continue to fight for life.”

Sean Young, legal director of the ACLU of Georgia, told The Associated Press that the new law is “clearly unconstitutional” and “every federal court that has heard a challenge to a similar ban has ruled that it’s unconstitutional.”

Georgia joins three other GOP-led states in enacting “heartbeat” legislation, which effectively outlaw abortions with few exceptions after six weeks of pregnancy, before most women know they’re pregnant.

Last month, Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine signed a similar abortion ban that is to take effect in July if not blocked by a federal judge. Judges already have blocked or struck down heartbeat bans as unconstitutional in Kentucky and Iowa.

SEE ALSO: Brian Kemp, Georgia governor, signs ‘heartbeat’ abortion bill

Pro-life activists and politicians have been emboldened to pass anti-abortion legislation with the hope of a challenge going to the Supreme Court, where they believe the new conservative majority would overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide.

But not every pro-life proponent is convinced the bare-knuckle fight is worth it.

“That can become a thorny issue, but it is unnecessarily thorny,” Sam Rohrer, president of the American Pastors Network, told The Washington Times. “That the court may rule this particular law unconstitutional was never an issue prior to 1973.”

In Iowa, an anti-abortion bill was considered so radical that even the Iowa Catholic Conference, representing the state’s Roman Catholic bishops, registered a “neutral” status on it.

“[T]his bill is likely to be found unconstitutional,” the bishops conference said in a 2018 statement preceding the bill’s passage in the Iowa House of Representatives last May. “We should consider the unintended long-term consequences that could result from a court finding a robust right to an abortion in Iowa’s Constitution.”

In January, Iowa District Court Judge Michael Huppert blocked the law, saying that prohibiting abortions at the detection of a fetal heartbeat violates “both the due process and equal protection provisions of the Iowa Constitution.”

Thomas Chapman, executive director for the Iowa Catholic Conference, says the group is drafting an amendment to the state constitution that would effectively ban most abortions, should Roe v. Wade fall.

“The bishops supported the life-affirming intent of the heartbeat bill and encourage the judiciary to once again recognize that all life should be protected from the moment of conception to natural death,” Mr. Chapman said in a statement to The Washington Times.

Since 2011, nearly 20 states have considered heartbeat legislation to varying ends. Abortions before the third trimester of pregnancy are legal in most states.

If not blocked in court, Georgia’s heartbeat law will take effect on Jan. 1, shortening the allowable period for an abortion from 20 weeks to when a fetal heartbeat is detected. It makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest, so long as the woman files a police report first, and in instances when a woman’s life is in danger or the fetus is not medically viable.

The law also deals with alimony, child support and income tax deductions for fetuses, declaring that “the full value of a child begins at the point when a detectable human heartbeat exists,” according to The Associated Press.

Meanwhile, a federal judge in Virginia has struck down a state law requiring only physicians to perform first-trimester abortions. U.S. District Judge Henry E. Hudson ruled Monday that the law “is unnecessary and provides minimal medical benefits with respect to first trimester abortions.”

Public opinion polls frequently suggest legal access to abortions in the first 12 weeks is supported by the majority of Americans. But support drastically tails off in subsequent trimesters.

⦁ This article is based in part on wire service reports.

• Christopher Vondracek can be reached at cvondracek@washingtontimes.com.

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