During the April 3 edition of TBS’ Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, host Samantha Bee highlighted the dangers of a recent so-called “heartbeat bill” passed by the Georgia legislature. The bill, which is expected to be signed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, would ban abortion once a fetal heartbeat has been detected, around six weeks into a pregnancy (often before a person knows they are pregnant). And Georgia isn’t alone, as a number of other states have introduced similarly extreme abortion bans. Here are four important details Bee highlighted about this extreme bill:
Georgia already has high rates of maternal mortality, and the bill could potentially exacerbate doctor shortages
As Bee said, the bill would outlaw abortion before many people even know they are pregnant, since the six-week time frame is “only two weeks past a missed period.” Bee explained that “this law will hurt women,” particularly in a state like Georgia, which “ranks as the worst state for maternal mortality” in the country (in addition, the “Georgia Department of Health found that 60 percent of those deaths were preventable”). Rather than address rates of maternal mortality, Bee argued, anti-choice lawmakers are instead focused on “making it harder for women to receive medical care.”
In addition to having high rates of maternal mortality Georgia also “suffers a massive shortage of OB-GYNs.” In fact, 79 counties in Georgia (around half of the total counties) do not have an OB-GYN. As Bee said, “doctors are significantly less likely to want to practice there if reproductive health care is criminalized” through this bill.
The wording of Georgia's bill could result in “bizarre tax implications”
Beyond the bill’s negative impact on both health outcomes and the availability of medical care in the state, Bee also highlighted the “bizarre tax implications” of Georgia's bill. Since it asserts that “unborn children shall be included in certain population-based determinations,” it could potentially be interpreted as giving “personhood” to a fertilized egg. Bee took this line of thought further, asking, “If a zygote is a dependent, then wouldn't miscarriage be both manslaughter and tax fraud? Could a fertility clinic get its own congressman?”
It's not stopping with Georgia -- a number of states are proposing similarly extreme and restrictive anti-choice legislation
Georgia’s passage of a six-week abortion ban comes as other states have either signed or proposed similarly restrictive anti-choice legislation. As Bee explained, “A number of states are locked in a real race to overturn Roe v. Wade.” She explained that North Dakota and Iowa had signed six-week bans into law prior to this legislative session, and in 2019, Mississippi and Kentucky have each passed laws codifying the same extreme policy, with “Missouri, Tennessee, and Ohio all working on their own versions.” The Guttmacher Institute recently published a report examining the rise of six-week abortion bans, which noted that “six-week bans have been introduced but have not yet moved in Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Minnesota, New York, South Carolina and West Virginia.”
Anti-choice laws like Georgia’s are gaining traction because of Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation to the Supreme Court
All of the six-week abortions bans that state legislatures have passed have been legally challenged for violating protections codified in Roe v. Wade, just as Georgia’s bill likely will be after Kemp signs it into law. As Bee’s segment noted, these legal challenges are often the point of such measures: States are passing these laws because -- with Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court -- anti-choice lawmakers see an opportunity to bring a challenge to Roe v. Wade that would spur the court to either overturn or further weaken the decision. As Bee said, Kavanaugh has already disregarded abortion-related precedent in one decision on the court, suggesting he’s not as respectful of precedent as he claimed to be to Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and other senators during his confirmation hearings.