Georgia Abortion Ban, a Miscarriage of Justice?
Georgia has become the latest state to ban abortions as soon as a heartbeat is detectable. While some argue the morality and even the legality of anti-abortion laws, women who have miscarriages may become unintended victims in this war of human rights.
When Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed the abortion “heartbeat” bill on May 7, it triggered waves of controversy through the state as well as across the country. Celebrities like Alyssa Milano are calling for a strike on sex in protest of this bill and others, hastagging the campaign #SexStrike
This bill criminalizes abortion once a fetal heartbeat has been detected, which usually occurs around the sixth week of pregnancy – before many women even know they’re pregnant. The bill also seeks to declare unborn fetuses as “natural persons,” meaning these fetuses will be included in the population.
If this law goes into effect, any unlawful abortions and miscarriages will be treated as murder cases. For instance, if a miscarriage is found unlawful because a woman used illicit drugs or consumed large amounts of alcohol, resulting in the death of the fetus, she could be tried for second degree murder.
According to the Georgia General Assembly, this is punishable by no less than 10 or more than 30 years imprisonment. A woman could also be seen as conspiring to commit a crime if she leaves Georgia to obtain an abortion elsewhere. The Georgia General Assembly states, “A person convicted of the offense of criminal conspiracy to commit a felony shall be punished by imprisonment for not less than one year nor more than one-half the maximum period of time for which he could have been sentenced if he had been convicted of the crime conspired to have been committed…”
Medicine Plus defines a miscarriage as “the spontaneous loss of a fetus before the 20th week of pregnancy” and as “a naturally occurring event, unlike medical or surgical abortions,” yet this new bill could potentially criminalize miscarriages, along with abortions. According to the American Pregnancy Association, miscarriages are a common occurrence, affecting between 10-25 percent of all pregnancies.
If this bill becomes law in 2020, then women who experience miscarriages may have to stand on trial to prove the death of the “natural persons” was in fact a natural event. However, if miscarriages are already a natural occurrence, how could a woman be punished for this “crime?”
For women who have experienced miscarriages, this traumatic experience has a lasting impact on the mind and body. According to the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics, miscarriages have been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder, grief, anxiety, depression and feelings of loss. Yet, women could be prosecuted while dealing with these personal medical issue because of Gov. Kemp’s bill.
This new “heartbeat” bill could pose a threat to women under circumstances they cannot control. Could women who accidentally become pregnant in their 40’s, when miscarriage rates increase, be criminalized since they were aware of the risks? Or could women with diabetes, when miscarriage rates increase, be put on trial for murder?
The uncertainties posed in Gov. Kemp’s bill could criminalize women in unjust ways and could lead to women seeking radical, dangerous and life-threatening solutions to their unwanted pregnancies in order to evade prosecution. Moreover, the one thing Kemp, like many other conservative male politicians, may have forgotten to include in the bill is the father’s responsibility to the fetus after a heartbeat is detectable.