ATLANTA (FOX 5 Atlanta) - Gov. Brian Kemp signed Georgia's "heartbeat bill" into law Tuesday morning as opponents pledged to continue their fight against the measure in court.
Kemp added his signature to The Living Infants Fairness and Equality (LIFE) Act at a ceremony at the Georgia State Capitol surrounded by pro-life advocates and lawmakers, including state Rep. Ed Setzler, the bill's author.
"Georgia is a state that values life," Gov. Kemp said. "We protect the innocent. We champion the vulnerable. We stand up for those who cannot speak for themselves."
Signing the legislation fulfilled a promise Kemp made on the campaign trail. He said he signed the bill so that "all Georgians have the chance to live grow, learn, and prosper in our great state."
Under current law, women in Georgia can seek an abortion during the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy, but House Bill 481 would only allow women to get abortions before a fetal heartbeat is detected, which is at about six weeks gestation. That is before most women see a doctor to confirm a pregnancy.
HB 481 makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest -- if the woman files a police report first -- and to save the life of the mother. It also would allow for abortions when a fetus is determined not to be viable because of serious medical issues.
The bill also deals with alimony, child support, and even income-tax deductions for fetuses, declaring that "the full value of a child begins at the point when a detectable human heartbeat exists."
The law is set to go into effect January 1, 2020, however it will likely face court challenges.
The ACLU of Georgia announced earlier this year it plans to challenge the measure in court.
"Georgia can't afford to go backwards on women's health and rights," said Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia. "We will act to block this assault on women's health, rights, and self-determination."
The ACLU and several other organizations held a news conference outside the Capitol Tuesday in a show of unity against the bill.
"I want our patients to know we are going to court, we are fighting for their rights and in the meantime, our doors stay open," said Staci Fox, CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast.
Actress Alyssa Milano and other prominent celebrities wrote a letter warning of a boycott by the film and TV industry if the bill goes into effect.
Similar abortion bans have recently been signed into law in Mississippi, Kentucky, and Ohio and are being considered in a number of other states.
Kentucky's law was immediately challenged by the ACLU after it was signed in March, and a federal judge temporarily blocked it.
Rep. Setzler, however, said that his bill is different from similar legislation in other states in that it establishes the "personhood" of a fetus. He believes it will stand up to any legal challenges.
"I don't want to predict what the courts will do, but I can tell you I believe that if it does make it to the Supreme Court, this bill lays the legal foundation that we would want," Rep. Setzler explained.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.