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Abortions after six weeks will now be illegal in Georgia

Georgia law makes most abortions illegal

Georgia Gov. Kemp has signed into law the state's "fetal heartbeat bill," a piece of legislation that would prohibit abortion after a heartbeat is detected in an embryo. That is something that usually happens between five and six weeks into a women's pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant.

Abortion rights advocates have called the bill an effective ban on abortion in the state.

"Georgia is a state that values life," Kemp said at the bill signing on Tuesday morning. "We protect the innocent, we champion the vulnerable, we stand up and speak for those that are unable to speak for themselves."

State Rep. Ed Setzler also spoke at the bill signing on Tuesday and called the legislation a "common sense issue," saying that a preschooler would call a six-week-old embryo a baby. He also said the legislation "tries to strike a balance" between "the interest of women who find themselves in difficult circumstances" and what he called "the right thing."

The bill appears to be a violation of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court decision that protects a woman's right to an abortion up until when the fetus is viable, which typically happens between 24 and 25 weeks. The American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Reproductive Rights have promised to challenge the legislation long before it goes into effect in January 2020.

Georgia governor signs controversial heartbeat abortion bill into law

"This law is bafflingly unconstitutional," said Elisabeth Smith, chief counsel at the Center for Reproductive Rights, in an email to CBS News on Tuesday morning. "Bans like this have always been blocked by courts. We will be suing Georgia to make sure this law has the same fate."

At the bill signing, Kemp recognized that the bill will likely be "challenged in the court of law" but said Georgia will "always continue to fight for life."

So-called "heartbeat bills" like Georgia's have become a popular tool among states looking to reduce abortion access. At least 15 states have introduced similar legislation this year and the governors of Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio have signed theirs into law. None of those laws have been successfully enacted, according to the reproductive health research organization the Guttmacher Institute.

Emboldened by the addition of conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, states have introduced and passed more anti-abortion access legislation than ever before, said Elizabeth Nash, a senior state issues manager at Guttmacher.

"The surge in attempts to ban abortion in the earliest stages of pregnancy underscores that the end goal of anti-abortion politicians and activists is to ban all abortion — at any point during pregnancy and for any reason," Nash said in an email to CBS News Monday.

This year alone, state lawmakers have introduced more than 250 bills restricting abortion access, according to a study conducted by Planned Parenthood and Guttmacher last month. And six-week abortion bans, like Georgia's, are up by 62 percent, according to the study.

Many of those restrictions have been blocked by federal judges, the first step in a long legal battle to get the legislation in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, said Nash. States can then appeal the decision, and if they're denied again they can submit another appeal to the Supreme Court, which can choose whether or not they want to take the case, according to Nash. For conservative lawmakers interested in overturning or eroding abortion access, this appellate path is the only way to substantively chip away at Roe v. Wade, which is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

Georgia's bill has been the target of intense scrutiny by Hollywood. A petition started by Alyssa Milano last month, who at the time was in Atlanta shooting for the Netflix show "Insatiable," was signed by more than 100 celebrities, including Amy Schumer, Alec Baldwin and Judd Apatow. Milano wrote that if the bill passed, "we cannot in good conscience continue to recommend our industry remain in Georgia."

The letter also noted that if members were to boycott filming in Georgia, "the cost would be most deeply felt by the residents of Georgia — including those who directly work in the film and television industry, and those who benefit from the many millions of dollars it pours into the local economy."

At an event in March, Kemp said the entertainment industry employs 200,000 Georgians and generated more than $60 billion of economic activity for the state.

Prior to Tuesday's legislation, Georgia politicians have already passed a host of anti-abortion access laws, according to the Guttmacher Institute. Women in Georgia are required to wait 24 hours between requesting and obtaining an abortion in the state and minors are required to notify their parents.