The Heartbeat Bill: a State of Change for Georgia

By: Michelle Manganiello 


A recent phenomenon has Georgians on edge: The Heartbeat Bill. This bill, passed by Governor Brian Kemp, allows abortions to be banned as early as six weeks into pregnancy. The punishment for those who perform an abortion is a minimum of 10 years in prison.

The bill instructs doctors to prohibit the abortion once a fetal heartbeat has been detected. Some exceptions to this rule are if the mother’s life is in danger or if a bodily function might be impaired. If it’s a case of rape or incest? These two cases are also exceptions for the bill only if a police report has been filed.

This bill has caused a spark in Georgians concerning their opinions on abortion. Inhabitants of Georgia who are resisting the bill are making their stance clear, as well as those who believe wholeheartedly in the law. On May 25th, protestors marched in Atlanta from Washington Street to the CNN Center, wanting to bring attention to this bill by chanting “my body, my choice” and carrying pro-abortion slogans and signs. The protest started with just a group of college students, but grew in magnitude as the march continued. Even though the bill does not go into effect until January 2020, many organizations are challenging it in court, including Georgia’s chapter of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Planned Parenthood Southeast and Black Votes Matter.

In addition to pro-abortion rights activist groups, Hollywood and major film studios are also making their opinions clear. CBS, Warner Media, NBCUniversal, Sony, Disney and Netflix are all weighing their options about whether they want to be associated with states that will have heartbeat bills go into effect. Georgia is commonly known as the “Hollywood of the South,” so if Netflix and other media teams locate their productions elsewhere, that would mean a loss of media, rejuvenation and economic opportunity for Georgia. These television and film companies are closely monitoring Georgia’s heartbeat bill status, claiming it would be difficult to maintain filming in a state that houses such an outrageous and “health care ban” bill.

Leah Merritt, third year English and Theatre student at UGA, had the amazing opportunity to shoot three episodes with Netflix’s Insatiable a few weeks ago. Full-time and  non-seasonal Netflix employees may not be so lucky.

“I formed so many great relationships with other cast and crew members, many of whom are local. I am definitely worried about their job security and hope for their sake that the production chooses to stay and protest in Georgia rather than fleeing,” said Merritt.

Adelaide Van Pelt, graduate from the University of Vermont and recent participant of the Disney College program, has recently moved to Georgia to work in production, and in particular, sets on Netflix.

“As a film and English double major, Atlanta seemed like the perfect place to move — cheaper than LA and NYC and very up and coming. However, with the new abortion legislation, a lot of studios— including Netflix—are threatening to pull out of Atlanta which would not only damage the economy but several filmmakers’ lives that relocated to Georgia as I have,” claimed Van Pelt.

If Georgia’s Heartbeat bill is officially established, it will have both an effect on women and the population at large. This bill questions the ability for women to make a choice about what they want to do with their body. It questions the men in government— do they have the right to be making decisions about women, their bodies and possible children? The law is also creating a puzzle for workers in the media and film industry, all who may lose their jobs if Netflix and other entertainment companies decide to relocate if the bill goes into effect. University students who want to pursue acting, film, screenwriting or entertainment and media studies as a career may also be put into jeopardy if these big-name Hollywood studios no longer want their productions to be shot in Georgia.

Even though many peoples’ jobs and positions are in flux right now, one aspect is for certain: this bill has brought the debate of abortion to its zenith. People are more aware of the issue of abortion, and whether they are willing to protest and take a side on the debate or just keep quiet. The bill is creating a division between people who support abortion and those who oppose it, therefor becoming a pursuit for us as individuals to become more knowledgeable about our rights, and how far we must go to protect them.

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