Georgia approves tax break for parents of unborn babies 'with a detectable human heartbeat'

A man touches a pregnant woman's belly. | Dayvison de Oliveira Silva/Pexels

Expectant parents in Georgia can now apply for a tax break for an unborn child or children following the U.S. Supreme Court decision overturning Roe v. Wade allowing state law banning abortion as early as six weeks of gestation to go into effect. 

In guidance Monday by the Georgia Department of Revenue, the state will recognize "any unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat … as eligible for the Georgia individual income tax dependent exemption."

Taxpayers with any unborn child or children between July 20 and Dec. 31 can claim exemptions of $3,000 for their 2022 individual income tax returns, according to the state.

The guidance states that any taxpayer claiming the deduction might be asked to provide an "income tax return, relevant medical records or other supporting documentation" to substantiate the claim.

The state plans to issue additional instructions on how to claim the personal exemption later this year.

The guidance follows the June Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, which overturned the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion nationwide, and a subsequent July ruling by the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Sistersong v. Kemp in July, which allowed the state's 2019 ban on abortions after six weeks to take effect immediately.

The 2019 law, House Bill 481, recognizes "unborn children as natural persons."

Lauren Groh-Wargo, the campaign manager for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, questioned the guidance. 

"So what happens when you claim your fetus as a dependent and then miscarry later in the pregnancy, you get investigated both for tax fraud and an illegal abortion?" she tweeted.

Following the 11th Circuit's ruling, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood released a joint statement calling the ruling "highly unorthodox" and "horrific."

"This is a highly unorthodox action that will immediately push essential abortion care out of reach for patients beyond the earliest stages of pregnancy. Across the state, providers are now being forced to turn away patients who thought they would be able to access abortion, immediately changing the course of their lives and futures," the statement read. "This is horrific. We'll continue doing everything in our power to fight for abortion access in Georgia in the face of these harmful attacks on people's ability to control if and when to have a child."

On the other hand, Georgia Right to Life issued a statement on Facebook describing the ruling as "wonderful news, no matter how you slice it." The pro-life organization explained that "our offices are rejoicing over all the lives that are being saved, even today!"

"Yesterday, children in the womb were in grave danger — today, children in the womb are in significantly less danger! This is to be celebrated!" Georgia Right to Life wrote. 

In 2019, Republican Gov. Brian Kemp signed into law The Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act, a ban on abortions in Georgia upon detecting a fetal heartbeat.

"Georgia is a state that values life," Kemp said as he approved the measure. "We protect the innocent. We champion the vulnerable, we stand up and speak for those that are unable to speak for themselves."

Following the Dobbs ruling, several states have enacted policies that ban abortion under most circumstances. The Biden administration has taken efforts to help secure abortion access.

Last month, the U.S. Department of Justice launched a "Reproductive Rights Task Force" chaired by Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta to monitor state and local laws restricting abortion.

President Joe Biden also signed an executive order to "protect and expand access to abortion" in response to abortion bans in several states. In an executive order released July 8, Biden said his administration was "taking action to protect healthcare service delivery and promote access to critical reproductive healthcare services, including abortion."

"It remains the policy of my Administration to support women's right to choose and to protect and defend reproductive rights. Doing so is essential to justice, equality, and our health, safety, and progress as a Nation," the president stated in the order.

Biden ordered the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to give him a report within 30 days outlining strategies to "protect and expand access to abortion care, including medication abortion."

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