An exam room at the Whole Women's Health Clinic in McAllen, Texas, March 4, 2014.
Jennifer Whitney/The New York Times/Redux

Georgia’s new anti-abortion law part of a radical new trend

Updated

At the national level, anti-abortion policymakers have repeatedly pushed in recent years for measures to ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy. A new Republican law in Georgia draws the line much, much earlier.

Georgia’s Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation on Tuesday banning abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can be as early as six weeks, before many women know they’re pregnant.

Kemp said he was signing the bill “to ensure that all Georgians have the opportunity to live, grow, learn and prosper in our great state.”

The signing caps weeks of tension and protests at the state Capitol in Atlanta, and marks the beginning of what could be a lengthy and costly legal battle over the law’s constitutionality.

It’s that “before many women know they’re pregnant” line that stands out for a reason. Under the new policy in Georgia, which will be tested vigorously in the courts, women can still terminate an unwanted pregnancy, but they’ll have to do so five or six weeks after conception.

Those who don’t know they’re pregnant that early on in the process will, evidently, be out of luck.

Other states, including Alabama and North Dakota, have pushed similar measures in recent years, but each of those laws have been struck down in the courts,

Anti-abortion forces, however, believe the courts are a whole lot further to the right than they used to be.

Indeed, Anna North noted today that these six-week measures, once seen as fringe proposals, have quickly become the norm in Trump-era GOP politics. It’s precisely why the new anti-abortion law in Georgia is the fourth such bill to be signed this year, following similar measures in Ohio, Kentucky, and Mississippi. Iowa passed its version last year.

All of this is predicated on an assumption: the new U.S. Supreme Court, having moved to the right with two justices from Donald Trump, will overturn the Roe v. Wade precedent, possibly with one of these so-called “heartbeat” bills.

That assumption may very well be correct – and we may know for sure before Election Day 2020.