Oh, would you look at that: old white men governing a woman’s body.
HB 481, known notoriously as the “Heartbeat Bill,” passed both Georgia’s Senate and House of Representatives and now only requires Gov. Brian Kemp’s signature for it to be signed into law. The legislation restricts abortion after six weeks when a fetal heartbeat is detected. Despite protests from the public, the American Civil Liberties Union and the film industry, the bill has tracked its way through the law and demonstrates the disturbing regression of women’s rights.
Prior to the Heartbeat Bill, Georgia’ cutoff for abortion was 20 weeks — nearly five more months for women to actually identify if they were pregnant and set up an appointment for an ultrasound. By pushing the cut off to six weeks, the bill almost effectively bans abortion altogether since most women don’t find out they’re pregnant until they’ve missed their period, which takes typically about 4-7 weeks.
For states that have an ultrasound requirement for abortions, like Georgia, most women don’t get ultrasounds until 18 weeks after the baby has been conceived. With the amount of time it takes to realize a missed period, take a pregnancy test, set up an appointment and figure out options, women will miss the six-week cut off period, which doesn’t leave them with many choices.
The bill has received significant opposition. Women from Georgia dressed up as handmaids from “The Handmaid’s Tale” to demonstrate how the bill regulates women by dictating when a woman has the right to make decisions for her body. The Writers Guild of America East and West, labor unions representing TV and film writers, also oppose the bill. Georgia’s film and TV industry is the second largest economic sector in the state, and many in the TV and film industry are threatening to refuse work in Georgia if the bill is passed, thus severely diminishing the state’s income from this industry.
The ACLU stated that if the bill is signed into law, it will challenge Georgia in court since the bill is “blatantly unconstitutional.” In March, a Kentucky judge struck down a similar law temporarily brought to court by the ACLU.
The Heartbeat Bill is entirely unconstitutional. In 1973, the Supreme Court set precedent in Roe v. Wade, which stated that abortion and a woman’s right to her body is a constitutional right. The precedent was challenged again in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey, in which Pennsylvania legislation required minors to get consent from one parent for abortion and married women had to inform their husbands of their intent to abort the fetus. The Supreme Court severed the husband notification regulations, but upheld the parental consent for minors and reaffirmed Roe v. Wade. By passing the Heartbeat Bill, states are challenging the court’s superiority, and courts are taking notice. Iowa judge Michael Huppert declared Iowa’s anti-abortion law unconstitutional and states that previous cases find that abortion is a woman’s fundamental right.
The Georgia state legislature is not representative of the women they’re governing. The Georgia legislature is comprised of merely 63 women out of 236 seats, or 26.7 percent. Why do we have so many men telling women what they can and can’t do with their bodies?
Akanksha Sharma, a freshman biology-chemistry major, said, “No one. No one gets to decide what a woman can do with her own body. Even the small amount of women in the legislature don’t have a right to dictate another woman’s personal choices.”
Worst of all, the Heartbeat Bill’s target is to reach the Supreme Court of the United States through the court cases in hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade, thus effectively outlawing abortion across the nation.
“In my opinion, this is stripping a woman of her right to control her own body. Lawmakers are attempting to control the choices for women,” Sharma said.
America is supposed to lead the world, to challenge inequality and to represent its citizens, so this state should not be en route to take away the woman’s freedom to choose what they can do with their body.