Georgia says fetuses count as dependents and get tax deduction
The tax advantage is a by-product of a law which came into force on July 20 banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy. Georgia House Bill 481 was originally approved in 2019 but was deemed unconstitutional given the protections afforded by Roe vs. Wade. With that longstanding precedent cleared in June, a federal appeals court paved the way for Georgia’s abortion ban. The court also agreed that “personality” could be redefined to include fetuses.
The concept of personality entrenchment in anti-abortion politics is not new. Among the states that consider embryos as separate persons are Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Kansas and Missouri, the Associated Press reported. Other states – including Colorado, Mississippi and North Dakota – have tried to follow that lead, but the bills have so far failed, according to the AP.
EXPLAINER: What is the role of personality in the abortion debate?
Georgia’s personality provision is, so far, the most extensive. Not only does it give tax breaks to fetuses, but it requires that they be included in some population counts. It also imposes alimony “on the father of an unborn child” – equivalent to the “direct and pregnancy-related medical expenses of the mother”.
But given the prevalence of miscarriages and stillbirths, some have wondered what the implications of the new tax policy could mean for those experiencing pregnancy loss. Georgia State University law professor Anthony Michael Kreis speculated about Twitter that the public treasury could end up “distributing a lot of money for pregnancies that would never come to term”.
Lauren Groh-Wargo, campaign manager for Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, wondered if a pregnancy loss could trigger an investigation. “So what happens when you claim your fetus as a dependent and you miscarry later in the pregnancy, you’re being investigated for both tax evasion and illegal abortion?” she tweeted.
Neither the bill nor the guidelines issued by the Georgia Department of Revenue address what would happen in the event of a miscarriage.
The law also creates other gray areas. For example, what are the implications for couples using a surrogate? And when it comes to sperm donors or cases of uncertain paternity, who would be responsible for providing child support?
The Washington Post contacted the Georgia Department of Revenue for clarification. The ministry’s guidelines say additional information — “including return instructions for applying for the personal exemption for an unborn child with a detectable heartbeat” — will be released later this year.
Georgia’s ban prohibits most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, usually when doctors can begin to detect heart activity. Exceptions include pregnancies caused by rape and incest, if a police report is filed, and pregnancies that would result in death or serious harm to the mother, but not harm based “on a diagnosis or allegation of ‘a mental or emotional state’. Additionally, the law does not prohibit pregnancy terminations for non-viable pregnancies, ectopic pregnancies, or spontaneous abortions, commonly known as miscarriages.
Georgian law highlights stark differences between states and a dizzying lack of consensus when it comes to personality.
Abortion is now prohibited in these states. See where the laws have changed.
In Missouri, abortion is prohibited – except when life-threatening – on the basis of the “unborn child’s right to life”. At the same time, a divorce cannot be finalized if one of the wives is pregnant. The reason: State divorce law doesn’t consider fetuses to be persons, so there can’t be “a court order that dictates visitation and child support for a child that doesn’t exist.” “, reported the Riverfront Times.
Last month, a case in Texas made headlines after a pregnant woman was arrested for driving alone in a busy lane. When officers asked where the other passenger was, Brandy Bottone replied that her baby counted as a passenger, given the reversal of deer and state abortion policy.
“The laws don’t speak the same language, and it’s all been a little confusing, honestly,” she told the Post.