The current state of women’s right to bodily autonomy in the United States has eerily begun to resemble that of the dystopian society depicted in The Handmaid’s Tale. While abortion rates have steadily declined over the last decade, the attempts by state legislatures to restrict or completely take away women’s right to abortion have exponentially increased. In the first six months of 2019 alone, five states passed laws placing restrictions on abortion. These restrictions range from limiting the time frame in which a woman may obtain an abortion to when a fetal heartbeat has been detected—normally around six weeks—to a complete ban and criminalization of the procedure. In addition to the states that have successfully enacted restrictions, another ten states have either introduced or moved to enact restrictions on abortion.
So how is it that all of these new laws are constitutional? The short answer is that they are not. The Supreme Court of the United States has stated that “[m]en and women of good conscience can disagree, and we suppose some always shall disagree, about the profound moral and spiritual implications of terminating a pregnancy, even in its earliest stage.” However, the country seems to have moved far beyond the ability to agree to disagree and is now demanding with each new restriction that the Court yet again reevaluate its stance on abortion.
On May 7, 2019, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signed the Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act into law. The LIFE Act is among the most restrictive abortion laws that have been introduced this year. While the United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia has granted a preliminary injunction that prohibits the LIFE Act from initially taking effect, the fate of Georgia’s abortion law still remains in question.
This Comment analyzes the constitutionality of the heartbeat restriction in the LIFE Act. Part II outlines the history of abortion laws in the United States and the current precedent set by the Supreme Court. Part III addresses the current abortion law in Georgia, the changes the LIFE Act will make if it is eventually permitted to take effect, and discusses the pending case that challenges the constitutionality of the law. Part IV discusses the constitutionality of the new law and what it would mean for the future of both Georgia and abortion laws across the United States if the law were to be held constitutional.
Sizemore, Brittney A.
"Under Kemp’s Eye: Analyzing the Constitutionality of the Heartbeat Restriction in Georgia’s LIFE Act and its Potential Impact on Abortion Law,"
Mercer Law Review: Vol. 71:
1, Article 23.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.law.mercer.edu/jour_mlr/vol71/iss1/23