ATLANTA — A controversial law that would ban abortions after six weeks, or when a fetal heartbeat is detected, is awaiting approval from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp amid growing backlash from celebrities and human-rights groups.
The “fetal heartbeat” bill, passed by Georgia lawmakers last week, is among the most restrictive abortion bans in the country. The current state law allows abortions up to the 20th week of pregnancy.
The bill adds Georgia to a growing list of states toughening their laws on abortion. Governors in both Kentucky and Mississippi have signed six-week abortion bans in recent weeks. And Republican lawmakers in several other states, including Tennessee, South Carolina, Ohio and Florida, are considering similar bills.
Republican Kemp is expected to sign the Georgia bill, however, it’s unclear when he will do so. The governor has until May 12 to sign or veto the law.
More: Georgia’s ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion bill: What you need to know
“We don’t have any plans regarding timing of signing of the heartbeat bill,” Kemp press secretary Cody Hall said Monday.
Kemp campaigned on a promise to support anti-abortion legislation. He specifically said he would sign a fetal heartbeat bill, calling the law “common sense.”
“We stand up for the innocent and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves,” Kemp tweeted March 29. “The legislature’s bold action reaffirms our priorities and who we are as a state.”
If it is signed into the law, the bill would make it illegal for women to get an abortion if a doctor has detected a heartbeat in the womb, which typically occurs at six weeks. Many women don’t know they are pregnant at that point.
The law also allows mothers to collect child support from the father to help cover the costs of her pregnancy and permits parents to claim their unborn child as a tax deduction.
Human-rights groups including the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood argue that the fetal heartbeat bill strips women of their constitutional rights and vow to challenge it in court.
“This is part of a national attack on women’s health care,” said Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates. “This is nothing more than women being part of a larger political game and being used as political pawns.”
Fox and other opponents say this law represents a larger effort by conservative leaders to fast track the issue to the Supreme Court and potentially overturn the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
This year, a judge in Iowa ruled that the state’s six-week abortion ban was unconstitutional. A similar law was also overturned in North Dakota in 2016.
Hollywood celebrities signed a letter saying that they wouldl urge TV and film production companies to abandon Georgia if the law is passed.
State Rep. Ed Setzler, a Republican from the Atlanta suburbs who authored the fetal heartbeat bill, said the law is about protecting the human rights of unborn children.
“It’s not only about one person, it’s about two persons,” Setzler told USA TODAY. “To allow the more powerful person in the relationship, the mother, to be able to completely dispose of and destroy a living distinct child is just unfair, it’s wrong.”
More: Georgia’s restrictive ‘fetal heartbeat’ abortion bill goes to governor
The bill’s exceptions include cases that involve rape or incest on the condition that the victim files a police report or someone files one on their behalf.
Setzler said the Department of Community Health and the State Medical Board would determine the process for getting an abortion after a police report is filed.
Other exceptions include when a doctor determines that the pregnancy would cause death or bodily harm to the mother or that the fetus would not be able to live after birth.
There is no exception for women who say they don’t know they are pregnant at six weeks, Setzler said.
“It’s simply not true that women can’t know they’re pregnant by six weeks,” Seltzer said, adding that missed periods or home pregnancy tests allow women to find out immediately.
The NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia condemned the law calling is “blatantly unconstitutional.” Most Georgians, according to the organization, reject government intrusion into their private medical decisions.
“This is an all-out assault on the reproductive health and safety of Georgia women,” NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia State Director Laura Simmons said. “This cruel, unconstitutional bill is part of an extreme GOP agenda to strip freedoms from women and could not be further from the values that most Georgians hold.”
Supporters of the bill began celebrating last week when state lawmakers passed it.
Cole Muzio, president and executive director of the Family Alliance of Georgia, lauded the bill, saying it marks a pivotal moment in the state’s history.
Muzio called abortion “one of the greatest human atrocities mankind has ever known.”
The bill “affirms common sense and self-evident truths,” Muzio said in a statement. “It is the bill the growing pro-life community has been waiting for, and we have hope that the strength of this bill will echo far beyond the borders of our state.”