Georgia Will Start Issuing Tax Exemptions for Fetuses

This comes after the state's abortion ban included a provision changing the legal definition of personhood to include fetuses.

Georgia Will Start Issuing Tax Exemptions for Fetuses
The recently closed Savannah Medical Clinic, which provided abortions for four decades in Savannah, Georgia, in July. Photo:Russ Bynum (AP)

The Georgia Department of Revenue will allow people to claim “any unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat” as dependents on next year’s state income taxes, according to a news release published Monday. This is the first step in asserting full fetal personhood in Georgia.

The statement uses perpetuates medically inaccurate language (“unborn child”) that comes from H.B. 481, the bill that codified fetal personhood into state law. Now, an embryo or fetus at any stage of development is legally considered a person. The tax exemption for those clusters of cells? $3,000 each.

“As such, on 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…in the amount of $3,000.00 for each unborn child,” the department said.

A detectable human heartbeat at six weeks is not like the diastole and systole you hear when your own heart moves blood through the chambers. In early stages of pregnancy, there are no complete heart chambers yet developed. Instead, what you hear at an ultrasound are “electronic impulses that signify fetal cardiac activity” that resemble “the sound that we recognize as a heartbeat,” American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists explains. Fetal heart chambers develop enough to allow an actual heartbeat to be heard on an ultrasound anywhere from 17 to 20 weeks of gestation.

Of course, the Georgia bill doesn’t let science and medicine get in the way of the concept of personhood.

Julie Kaye, an attorney for the ACLU Reproductive Freedom Project, said in a statement that “Georgia’s attempt to treat an embryo from the earliest days of pregnancy as a person with rights equivalent to those of the pregnant person” creates “a cloud of confusion over pregnant people and their health care providers.”

The state Department of Revenue said “relevant medical records or other supporting documentation” should be retained to support a Georgian’s exemption claim in case the department has questions. More information will released later this year before tax season arrives.

Jezebel reached out to the department for comment on exactly what documents the department will accept, and how it will handle cases of pregnancy loss. As of publication, no one had responded.

This change was made after the 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Georgia’s six-week abortion ban to be reasonable, allowing it to go into effect in July. The chief judge decided to forgo the normal waiting period, meaning the ban went into effect the same day his ruling was made public. Abortion providers had to scramble to cancel appointments, leaving patients clambering for options as Georgia and Florida had been the only two states in the southeastern U.S. with legally operating clinics.

The appellate ruling was a part of a larger case filed by a coalition of abortion rights advocates and providers in Georgia. Following the ruling, plaintiffs were allowed to refile in district court to raise a new challenge to the fetal personhood statute.

Georgia physicians and advocates are also working through state courts, and filed a new, separate lawsuit challenging the six-week abortion ban on July 26 in state Superior Court. This lawsuit challenges the legislation on the grounds that Georgia’s Constitution protects the fundamental right to privacy in medical decisions.

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