The United States 11th Circuit Court of Appeals decided Wednesday afternoon to overturn a lower court’s ruling to allow Georgia’s six-week abortion ban, titled the Georgia’s Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act, to become the law of the state, effective immediately. The law bans most abortions the moment “a detectable human heartbeat” is present. Cardiac activity can be detected by ultrasound in cells within an embryo that will become the heart. That process could take place as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many pregnancies are detected. 

Georgia Republicans have adopted the belief the “heartbeat” of an embryo is formed at the sixth week of the gestation period.

However, the viability of a fetus is usually determined by the 24th week of gestation. Which means if the baby is born premature, the survival rate is around 50%, depending upon factors such as access to healthcare.

Georgia Governor Brian P. Kemp delivers a speech after filing the paperwork to run for re-election inside the State Capitol on Thursday, March 10, 2022. Governor Kemp is joined by his wife, First Lady Marty Kemp. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

“Since taking office in 2019, our family has committed to serving Georgia in a way that cherishes and values each and every human being, and today’s decision by the 11th Circuit affirms our promise to protect life at all stages,” said Georgia Governor Brian P. Kemp. “We are overjoyed that the court has paved the way for the implementation of Georgia’s LIFE Act, and as mothers navigate pregnancy, birth, parenthood, or alternative options to parenthood – like adoption – Georgia’s public, private, and non-profit sectors stand ready to provide the resources they need to be safe, healthy, and informed.”

Georgia Democrats hosted a late-afternoon press conference which shamed the Republicans and the Georgia LIFE Act. While the new law includes exceptions for rape and incest, but only if a police report is filed. The law also permits later abortions when the mother’s life is at risk or a serious medical condition renders a fetus no longer viable.

“I’m not certain if the governor failed biology or simply failed morality,” Abrams said. “But either way this law is wrong and it must be struck down and I will be the governor to repeal it. There will be those who say that I am impassioned. Someone might say I’m angry. I am enraged.”

Democratic candidate for Georgia Governor, Stacey Abrams, speaks out against the state’s new restrictive abortion laws during a press at the I.B.E.W. 613 on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

On June 24th, the United States Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, which made the right to abortion a state-by-state issue. Within hours, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr asked the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals to let the state’s law take effect.

A three-judge panel in the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a Mississippi case that overturned Roe v. Wade allows Georgia’s restrictive abortion law to take effect. According to the opinion rendered by Chief Judge William Pryor:

“This appeal concerns whether Georgia can prohibit some abortions and whether its redefinition of “natural person” to include unborn children is unconstitutionally vague on its face.”

Pryor added, “the Act also clarifies that removal of an “ectopic pregnancy” or “a dead unborn child caused by spontaneous abortion” is not an “abortion.”

“While disappointing, the 11th Circuit’s decision is not unexpected. We know the assignment now,” said State Senator Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, in a written statement. “The U.S. Supreme Court said this fight belongs in the states, so we must challenge this law in the state courts, and we must elect state leaders who will protect access to reproductive healthcare. That’s why I’m running for Georgia Attorney General.” 

Previously, an abortion in Georgia is legal up until 20 weeks into a pregnancy. Included in the law, is a “personhood provision.” The law states an unborn child is a “natural person” with rights and privileges.

“We rejoice that thousands of unborn boys and girls in Georgia, with beating hearts like you and me, will be spared the violence of abortion and have the opportunity to be born,” said Caitlin Connors, southern regional director for SBA Pro-Life America. “We thank Governor Brian Kemp, Attorney General Chris Carr, and all our pro-life allies in the Peach State for their consistent courage in fighting for compassionate, life-saving laws.”

Additionally, a pregnant mother residing in the State of Georgia will now be able to seek child support from the father of her unborn child for up to the total cost of all direct medical and pregnancy related expenses. Once the child is born, Georgia’s child support law would kick in.

However, the new Georgia LIFE Act wades into a medically thorny issue which leaves the determination of the viability of a fetus to law enforcement and the Georgia State Government.

Democratic candidate for Georgia Governor, Stacey Abrams, speaks out against the state’s new restrictive abortion laws during a press at the I.B.E.W. 613 on Wednesday, July 20, 2022. Abrams was joined by Charlie Bailey, left, Minority Leader of the Georgia House of Representatives, Dr. James Beverley, Georgia State Rep. Bee Nguyen and Nakita Hemingway. (Photo: Itoro N. Umontuen/The Atlanta Voice)

“But how do you prove it was a miscarriage?”, asked Abrams. “Miscarriage biologically, it’s called a spontaneous abortion. So how do you prove it unless you’re investigating how many women are going to have to wake up because someone told the sheriff that someone committed a crime in that house? And a woman has to wake up at three in the morning in the midst of a tragedy and prove that she had a spontaneous abortion a miscarriage and did not violate HB 481.”

Abrams said the challenge with this law is that it ignores biology and the legitimacy of medical decisions. She added there is nothing in this law that should stand. Meanwhile, Governor Kemp and U.S. Senate candidate Herschel Walker believe in a total ban on abortion, without exceptions for rape or incest.

“The Georgia legislature’s six-week abortion ban is draconian, cruel, and a gross overreach by the state into the private health care decisions of Georgia women,” said U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff in a written statement. “Women and their health care providers in Georgia may now be subject to criminal prosecution over intensely personal and complex medical decisions. I call on Georgia’s State Legislature immediately to repeal this law.”

Itoro Umontuen currently serves as Managing Editor of The Atlanta Voice. Upon his arrival to the historic publication, he served as their Director of Photography. As a mixed-media journalist, Umontuen...