Georgia’s abortion ban treats a fetus as a person. And now his tax code too.
The state Department of Revenue announced this week that “any unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat” can be declared dependent, offering a $3,000 tax exemption for each pregnancy within a household, months before the birth of the child. Georgian law bans most abortions after six weeks, which is usually when doctors can begin to detect heart activity in the fetus.
The announcement marks a new frontier in anti-abortion policymaking in a post-Roe America, where conservative lawmakers have gone beyond banning abortion and are now trying to expand rights and protections rights granted to the fetus under “fetal personality” laws. Georgia, Alabama, and Arizona have passed abortion bans that include language that broadly defines a fetus as a person.
Separately, nearly 40 states, including Texas and California, define a fetus as a person in homicide cases. For example, Scott Peterson in 2004 was convicted in California for killing his wife and unborn child. His wife, Laci Peterson, was eight months pregnant when she was killed.
Georgia’s abortion law goes further than any other provision relating to the personality of the fetus. Called the Living Infants Fairness and Equality, or LIFE, Act, it prohibits abortion after six weeks and explicitly recognizes the fetus as a person.
A federal judge struck down the legislation last summer, finding it violated a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion. The appeals court delayed its final decision, pending a ruling from the United States Supreme Court.
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After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade on June 24, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit handed Georgia conservatives their long-awaited victory, allowing abortion restrictions to take effect.
In the July 20 appeals court ruling, Chief Justice William H. Pryor Jr. wrote that “a person of reasonable intelligence is capable of understanding that the ‘fundamental meaning [of]’ The provision is to expand the definition of person to include unborn human beings who are carried in their mother’s womb at any stage of development.
Governor Brian Kemp, who signed the law in 2019, celebrated the court’s decision.
“Georgia is a state that values and supports life at all stages — and the Georgia LIFE Act and this provision both reflect that commitment,” a spokesperson for Kemp said.
State Rep. Ed Setzler, the law’s Republican sponsor, said in a video leaked in 2019 that the ultimate goal of the law is to have the Supreme Court recognize the personality of a fetus.
“It’s about establishing the personality of the unborn child, in the tax code, for child support, in our censuses, in all of our code, so that we can lay the groundwork that no another state in the country for the past 46 years has ever done, which is to establish the personality of this child, and we’re going to take that to the highest court in the land,” Mr. Setzler said in the video.
Mr. Setzler did not respond to requests for comment.
Georgia’s efforts to recognize a fetus as a person could lay the groundwork for other conservative states, which have yet to clarify the meaning and effects of such an approach, legal experts said.
“The anti-abortion movement has always been a personality movement, there just wasn’t a consensus on what it actually meant,” said Mary Ziegler, a law professor at the University of California, Davis, who has written several books on abortion and the law. .
Prior to Roe’s disappearance, conservatives were united around the single goal of restricting access to abortion. But Ms Ziegler says the anti-abortion movement is struggling to find consensus on what fetal personality means in a post-Roe legal landscape.
“No one has really figured out how to impose personality beyond just ‘you can’t abort,'” she said. “Georgia is starting to address this, but they’ve only really looked at a handful of situations. How do you apply this in HOV lanes? Do you give a fetus their own lawyer? There’s so many questions left open.
Last month, pregnant Texas woman ticketed for driving alone in HOV lane argued that her fetus counted as a person under the state’s abortion ban. Texas’ abortion ban does not include the personality of the fetus, unlike its criminal code.
Georgia’s abortion law also allows the mother to collect alimony to cover the cost of “direct and pregnancy-related medical expenses” before the child is born.
Democrats said the law could also expose women who experience miscarriages to unknown consequences.
“So what happens when you claim your fetus as a dependent and you miscarry later in the pregnancy, you’re being investigated for both tax evasion and illegal abortion?” tweeted Lauren Groh-Wargo, the campaign manager for Democratic Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams.
Monday’s announcement says taxpayers claiming the new deduction may be asked to provide medical records or pregnancy documentation. The Department of Revenue did not say if and how families who lose a pregnancy could protect themselves against allegations of fraud.
Specific instructions on how to claim a fetus on a tax return are expected later this year.