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Georgia Declares Embryos ‘With a Detectable Heartbeat’ Can Be Claimed as Dependents on Taxes

Georgia’s Department of Revenue said on Monday that residents of the US state could claim embryos with a “detectable human heartbeat” as dependents on their taxes.

The decision comes after a federal appeals court allowed Georgia’s “heartbeat” law strongly restricting abortions to take effect.

The decision says the state-level department “will recognize any unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat … as eligible for the Georgia individual income tax dependent exemption,” explaining that the new rule follows from the US Supreme Court’s June ruling in Dobbs vs. Jackson and a US Court of Appeals decision in Sistersong vs. Kemp that was handed down on July 20.

The former overturned the 1973 Roe vs. Wade ruling, removing the federal right to an abortion, and the latter allowed Georgia’s so-called “heartbeat bill,” signed into law in 2019 but blocked by a judge, to take effect.

Beginning on July 20, 2022, taxpayers filing a claim can get a tax exemption of $3,000 per embryo, but may need to provide “relevant medical records or other supporting documents,” the department says.

The Georgia law claims to ban abortions after what it calls a “fetal heartbeat” is detectable, which can be as early as six weeks after conception, when most people don’t yet know that they’re pregnant. However, the situation it describes in that way is not actually a heartbeat, but a series of electrical impulses from a cluster of cells that will eventually grow into the heart’s “pacemaker” if the pregnancy develops normally.

Opponents have said the concept is not scientific and is an attempt to ban abortions at an extremely early time.

Before the high court struck down Roe vs. Wade in June, the 1973 ruling had banned restrictions on abortion access during the first trimester, which typically ends around week 12 of the pregnancy, and only allowed restrictions, but not bans, during the second trimester.

However, with those rules now gone, several restrictive laws passed years ago but blocked because they violated the court’s ruling have now been allowed to take effect, as have abortion-banning laws from before the Roe ruling that were never removed from the books, and so-called “trigger laws” written to take effect whenever Roe was overturned.

Thus, according to the law in Georgia, the moment an embryo (it’s not technically a fetus yet) in a pregnant person’s uterus has a detectable series of “pacemaker” electrical signals, it’s officially a person.

However, more liberal areas of the Peach State have vowed to oppose the two court rulings, with district attorneys in the Atlanta area pledging they will “not be using precious tax dollars allocated to this office to pursue prosecutions” under the abortion-restricting law.

In other US states with similar “heartbeat” laws, the effort to extend legal personhood to fetuses and embryos has hit rockier terrain. An Arizona judge blocked a bill on the subject last month, calling it “constitutionally vague.”

Taxation isn’t the only unexpected change caused by the Dobbs ruling: a woman in Texas has tried to argue that her unborn fetus should count as a passenger in her car, allowing her to drive in the high-occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane on the highway.

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August 3, 2022


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