A day after Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed a law banning nearly all abortions in the state, Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R-GA) praised the bill, saying it was logical because doctors in hospitals take patients’ pulses to check for signs of life.
The law, HB 481, prohibits virtually all abortion after the time when a physician can first detect cardiac activity — as early as six weeks’ gestation — long before many people even know they’re pregnant and well before a fetus is actually viable outside the womb, which is usually between 24 and 28 weeks. It also grants embryos and fetuses the same legal rights — including tax deductions — as other “natural persons.”
HB 481 carries exceptions for medical emergencies.
Although the new law is clearly unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, Georgia is one of a handful of states hoping the high court’s recent shift even further to the right will lead it to eventually take up the issue and ultimately ends women and gender minorities’ right to choose.
Loudermilk, a former information technology services business owner with no medical degree, was first elected to Congress in 2014 after embracing the belief that “human life begins at conception and deserves legal protection at every stage until natural death.” He told Fox News on Wednesday that the new law is an “incredible piece of legislation” with a “balance between the protecting of a woman’s liberties but more importantly providing a path for unborn children that are alive to be able to experience life.”
The Georgia Republican then attempted to justify the law’s scientifically questionable reliance on the detectable heartbeat standard based on the notion that dead people no longer have a pulse.
“The critical part of this is, look, the heartbeat has been used in science for many, many, many years as a detection of life,” he explained. “If you are in the hospital, if you’re having issues, they are checking for heartbeat, to see ‘Do you have a heartbeat?’ That’s gonna tell the doctors whether you’re alive or not. These babies that have heartbeats have a complete circulatory system. You can take an image of a child at that stage of life and show it to a young child and they are going to identify that is a baby.”
Under Georgia law and the 1981 Uniform Determination of Death Act, the determination of whether a person is alive is not, in fact, dependent on whether they have a pulse but whether they have sustained “irreversible cessation of circulatory and respiratory functions, or irreversible cessation of all functions of the entire brain, including the brain stem.”
Pro-choice advocates say they’re already prepared to fight the bill, as groups in other states with similar bans have done.
“Bans like this have always been blocked by courts,” said Elisabeth Smith, chief counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, in a statement Tuesday. “We will be suing Georgia to make sure this law has the same fate.”