POLITICS

Georgia District Attorneys Vow Not To Enforce 'Heartbeat' Abortion Bill

Prosecutors for five of Georgia’s most populous counties say they won't prosecute women who get abortions under the state's "heartbeat" bill.

District attorneys for five of Georgia’s most populous counties vowed not to prosecute people who get abortions under the extreme anti-abortion “heartbeat” bill signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp (R) earlier this month. 

“As a matter of law (as opposed to politics), this office will not be prosecuting any women under the new law as long as I’m district attorney,” Gwinnett County DA Danny Porter wrote in a statement to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The extreme legislation bans abortion after six weeks, the time period in which doctors can detect a fetal heartbeat. Many people, however, aren’t even aware that they are pregnant at that point. The bill allows for a longer time period in cases of rape and incest.

The legislation criminalizes abortion for anyone who undergoes or performs the procedure after six weeks, carrying a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.

Fulton, Gwinnett, Cobb, DeKalb and Henry County prosecutors told local outlets that they either will not or cannot enforce the law once it goes into effect Jan. 1. 

DeKalb County DA Sherry Boston told the AJC she will not prosecute people under the controversial law “given its ambiguity and constitutional concerns.” 

“There is no language outlined in HB 481 explicitly prohibiting a district attorney from bringing criminal charges against anyone and everyone involved in obtaining and performing what is otherwise currently a legal medical procedure,” Boston said. 

“As a woman and mother, I am concerned about the passage and attempted passage of laws such as this one in Georgia, Alabama, and other states,” she added.

The bill is expected to face challenges in court and could potentially be postponed because it directly conflicts with Roe v. Wade, the historic 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortions in the U.S. 

Similarly, a spokesperson for Fulton County DA Paul Howard said the district attorney “has no intention of ever prosecuting a woman under this new law,” he told NBC affiliate 11Alive. He also said Howard will not prosecute medical professionals for performing the procedure in Fulton County, which includes the state’s capital, Atlanta.

Henry County DA Darius Pattillo called the bill “unconstitutional,” saying it’s in direct conflict with Roe v. Wade.

“This office will not prosecute any woman for decisions regarding her own personal health, nor any physician or other healthcare professional, under HB 481,” he told 11Alive

Planned Parenthood, the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights have all pledged to sue Georgia over the controversial heartbeat bill. 

“[Georgia lawmakers’] votes are far outside the mainstream, and we will now spend our time and energy launching a campaign to replace you,” Staci Fox, president of Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates said in a statement.

Georgia is among a number of states that recently passed extreme anti-abortion legislation. So far this year, Ohio, Kentucky, Missouri and Mississippi have all either passed or considered similar laws. Texas lawmakers are considering the death penalty for any woman who gets an abortion. And just last week, Alabama passed the strictest abortion restriction in the country, banning the procedure in all cases, including rape and incest. The only exception is if the life of the pregnant woman is at risk.

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