Kemp to sign fetal heartbeat bill Tuesday

May 6, 2019

Gov. Brian Kemp is set to sign the LIFE Act into law on Tuesday morning, which would largely outlaw abortions after a doctor is able to detect a fetal heartbeat.

Kemp’s office announced he would be signing House Bill 481 in a ceremony Tuesday featuring Georgia House Speaker David Ralston, the bill’s author, state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, other lawmakers, special guests and other stakeholders.

Doctors typically find a fetal heartbeat at around six weeks. The bill contains exceptions for incest, rape, medical futility or when the health of the mother is at stake. Georgia already bans abortion after 20 weeks.

The controversial bill passed largely on party lines during this year’s legislative session with Republicans generally supportive and Democrats opposed.

In an April interview with the MDJ, Kemp said his office was still reviewing the bill’s language and did not commit to a date on which he would sign it, but signaled his approval of the final version of the legislation.

“Your readers and Georgia citizens should know that I’m very supportive of that. … I understand this is a tough issue. A lot of people disagree on it, and I am OK with that. … But this is something that should not surprise people. That’s what I campaigned on. People are going to find out that Brian Kemp is going to do exactly what he told people he would do.”

In that same interview, Kemp said he personally believes life begins at conception.

One of the bill’s critics was state Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, who represents parts of Smyrna and Cumberland.

Jordan tweeted Monday morning that Kemp signing the bill does not mean that the fight against it is over.

“When you know something is unconstitutional and you still decide to 1) push it through the legislature and 2) sign it, that is a direct hit on the rule of law. Women will not forget. The fight doesn’t end tomorrow. This is where it begins,” Jordan tweeted.

State Rep. Bert Reeves, R-Marietta, was one of Kemp’s floor leaders in the Legislature this year. In an MDJ interview shortly after the session ended, Reeves acknowledged that the bill will likely face a court battle.

“This is not a secret. Anybody that acts like that’s a secret is not paying attention,” Reeves said. “It’s been ruled unconstitutional in other states, and my guess is that’s what will happen and we will get into litigation and ultimately seek an opportunity to go before the Supreme Court and to test where the Supreme Court is at this point on the issue.”