Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act, or House Bill 481, is a 10-page six-week abortion ban that Governor Brian Kemp signed into law back in 2019. It would criminalize most abortions after six weeks into pregnancy, a time before someone would know they are pregnant, and the only exceptions would be for medical emergencies, “medically futile” pregnancies, as well as rape and incest only if a police report has been filed. It also adds language such as “fetal personhood,” which would change the definition of a “natural person” to include “an unborn child at any stage of development who is carried in the womb.”
The ban was being blocked by a lawsuit bought by several abortion rights groups in which a lower court district judge ruled that the law was unconstitutional as it violated several conditions set forth by Roe v. Wade. However, the Supreme Court’s decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization that overturned Roe has also overturned this ruling. On July 20, 2022, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, citing the Supreme Court decision, allowed the abortion ban to immediately go into effect. The ruling also dismissed the lower court’s blocking of the provision of H.B. 481 that defines embryos and fetuses at any stage of development as “persons” throughout Georgia law.
This ruling has been called by abortion rights activists as “highly unorthodox” due to it taking this action on its own, without any request from the state, and ignoring precedents set by normal court procedures of waiting the normal 28 day period for the official mandate to be issued. The American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Georgia, Center for Reproductive Rights, Planned Parenthood Southeast, and Planned Parenthood Federation of America all weighed their responses to this ruling in a joint press release statement.
Julia Kaye, staff attorney of the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project said: “Once today’s court order takes effect, Governor Kemp and his radical political allies will be able to force Georgians to carry pregnancies and give birth against their will, with profound medical risk and life-altering consequences.”
Amy Kennedy, the vice president of external affairs at Planned Parenthood Southeast comments: “This announcement is an affront to our personal rights and goes against the will of the vast majority of Georgians who believe in the bodily autonomy of all in our state.”
Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, stated “Georgia voters have the opportunity to vote out politicians who oppose a woman’s right to decide when, whether, and with whom she wants to have a family.”
Moving forward, abortion providers and advocacy groups filed a new lawsuit on July 26, 2022 challenging Georgia’s abortion law based on privacy protections in the state Constitution. The city of Atlanta is also donating $300,000 to the National Network of Abortion Funds which will help women get the support and money they need for abortions, including out of state travel.