While the issue of prenatal rights and personhood remains unsettled, Georgia’s state law, which restricts abortion in most cases to before a fetal heartbeat is detected, already considers unborn babies to be persons, granting parents the right to claim unborn children as dependents on their taxes.
This week the Supreme Court declined to rule in a case involving the pro-life group Catholics for Life that challenged a Rhode Island law codifying abortion rights. The plaintiffs claimed the case could have decided whether unborn children would be granted protection under the Constitution. “This Court should grant the writ to finally determine whether prenatal life, at any gestational age, enjoys constitutional protection — considering the full and comprehensive history and tradition of our Constitution and law supporting personhood for unborn human beings,” the plaintiffs wrote.
Georgia, however, has already implemented a law that grants personhood to unborn babies after about six weeks’ gestation. The LIFE Act, which was allowed to go into effect on July 20, prohibits abortion once a heartbeat is detected. The act amends state law to include unborn children as “natural persons.” With that amendment, parents are able to claim preborn children as dependents and receive a deduction on their taxes. Any unborn child with a detectable heartbeat will qualify as a dependent.
The Georgia Department of Revenue released guidance on the tax deduction, saying,
“Individual income tax returns filed for Tax Year 2022 where, at any time on or after July 20, 2022, and through December 31, 2022, a taxpayer has an unborn child (or children) with a detectable human heartbeat (which may occur as early as six weeks’ gestation), the taxpayer may claim a dependent personal exemption as provided for under O.C.G.A § 48-7-26(a) and (b)(3) in the amount of $3,000.00 for each unborn child.”
Medical records or other documentation will be required.
The law also allows women to get child support payments for direct medical and pregnancy-related expenses.
Many critics falsely claim that the act permits the state to prosecute women for having miscarriages. Lauren Groh-Wargo, who manages gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’s campaign, tweeted, “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?”
The law, however, clearly defines abortion as “the act of using, prescribing, or administering any instrument, substance, device, or other means with the purpose to terminate a pregnancy with knowledge that termination will, with reasonable likelihood, cause the death of an unborn child.”
It further states that “any such act shall not be considered an abortion if the act is performed with the purpose of A) Removing a dead unborn child caused by spontaneous abortion; or B) Removing an ectopic pregnancy.”
The act defines a spontaneous abortion as “the naturally occurring death of an unborn child, including a miscarriage or stillbirth.”
Georgia isn’t perfect in addressing the constitutional rights of unborn children. The law still allows for abortions up to 20 weeks’ gestation in the case of rape or incest if a police report is filed, raising the question: If a child is a person at six weeks’ gestation, why is it acceptable to kill them due to the abhorrent circumstance by which they were conceived?
Nonetheless, this is a law that should be implemented in other states. Georgia now recognizes unborn children as people and rewards parents for choosing life and having children. There could be potential issues with the law that will need to be ironed out, but Christians can recognize that this is a good law that provides much needed financial assistance and moral support to parents and single mothers.
The Bible clearly affirms the humanity and life of the unborn child. John the Baptist rejoiced and leapt in Elizabeth’s womb at the sound of Mary’s voice, who herself was pregnant with the Savior of the world, Jesus (Luke 1:41). And in Psalm 139:13-16, ESV, the psalmist writes,
“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.”
Any law, even if not quite perfect, that recognizes the personhood of the unborn is a positive. There is no question that lives will be saved as a result of this law, so let’s rejoice at Georgia’s willingness to acknowledge that those alive but not yet born are people too and let’s pray that other states will also provide this legal recognition.
Ready to dive deeper into the intersection of faith and policy? Head over to our Theology of Politics series page where we’ve published several long-form pieces that will help Christians navigate where their faith should direct them on political issues.