ATLANTA — Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp announced his support Thursday for a “trigger law” that would ban almost all abortions in the state if the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision is overturned.
The Republican’s endorsement of the measure opens a new front over cultural legislation at the Georgia Statehouse and will stoke fierce opposition from Democrats and abortion rights advocates.
But it will be feted by conservatives eager to hold Kemp to his promise to pass the nation’s strictest abortion limits.
The legislation, introduced Thursday by Kemp’s top allies in the Georgia House, would punish anyone who performs abortions with up to 10 years in prison and a fine of as much as $100,000.
It would carve out exceptions in the case of rape, incest, medical emergencies and medical futility.
If it passes, the new limits would only take effect if two other things happened first: The U.S. Supreme Court would have to overrule the central holding in the landmark 1973 ruling, which established a nationwide right to abortion. Then, the General Assembly would have to pass a joint resolution signed by the governor.
Kemp said he supports the measure because it would “protect the innocent and most vulnerable” at a time when some liberal politicians are advocating for looser abortion restrictions.
“Our state values life -- from conception to natural death,” Kemp said in a statement. “This legislation reflects our calling to protect the unborn and our desire to ensure opportunity for all.”
Five states -- Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota -- have passed similar measures to pre-emptively outlaw abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned. Four other Republican-led states are considering similar measures.
It’s bound to face vehement opposition from Democrats and abortion rights supporters, who have roundly criticized a measure introduced earlier this week that would ban abortions once a doctor can detect a heartbeat in the womb.
State law now allows abortions up to 20 weeks.
The surge of interest in the laws comes as abortion opponents see a renewed potential to overturn the 1973 ruling after President Donald Trump’s appointment of Justice Brett Kavanaugh last year gave conservatives the edge in the Supreme Court.
More than a dozen cases involving abortion could soon land before the justices.
Kemp, the former Georgia secretary of state, courted conservatives during last year’s crowded Republican primary with pledges to sign a version of “religious liberty” legislation, crack down on illegal immigration, expand gun rights and restrict abortions.
Until Thursday, though, his legislative agenda focused largely on campaign promises that appealed to a broader electorate, including a pledge to hike teacher pay and target gang violence.
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