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Georgia State Patrol says HOV lane access for pregnant drivers 'under review'

GSP said it does not set or control standards but that it routinely reviews new laws to adjust enforcement measures.

ATLANTA — As Georgia's "heartbeat" abortion law takes effect, the state is beginning to assess the full implications of its new personhood definition and in some cases implementing new rules that apply to unborn children.

In addition to policies spelled out in the law, such as granting a child dependent tax exemption to unborn children, the process also includes looking at questions that aren't explicitly outlined in the law.

One of those questions: Can a pregnant driver use the HOV lane on the claim that there are two people in the car?

RELATED: Pregnant Texas woman driving in HOV lane gets ticket, argues baby is second passenger

This issue famously came up in Texas last month, when a woman in that state used the argument her baby was the second occupant of her car when she got a ticket for using the HOV lane by herself.

"My baby girl is right here. She is a person," the woman, Brandy Bottone, told officers.

Texas, like Georgia, now recognizes unborn children as people fully entitled to legal rights.

So how might this particular issue play out in the Peach State? 11Alive's Joe Henke brought the question to the Georgia State Patrol, and they said it's "under review."

GSP said they're not responsible for defining standards for these sorts of things - simply enforcement. In a statement, the agency said: "(Department of Public Safety) does not set the standard for vehicle occupancy numbers. We also do not control, determine, or engage in how that standard is set. Our DPS team routinely reviews new laws and modifications for adjusting DPS enforcement measures, as needed. This matter is currently under review."

The agency added that any explicit addressing of whether an unborn child counts as a vehicle occupant would be "something that will have to be decided through legislation and in conjunction with the (Department of Transportation)."

GDOT, for their part, seemed to place the onus on GSP for how to enforce HOV lane compliance.

"Georgia DOT designates HOV lanes under Georgia code section 32-9-4 for the exclusive use of 'passenger vehicles occupied by two persons or more.' However Georgia DOT plays no role in the enforcement of this designation or how it is interpreted by law enforcement for the purposes of enforcing the requirement," the agency said.

Georgia law currently does not explicitly address the matter - regulations merely state that passenger vehicles using the HOV lanes must be "occupied by two persons or more." 

Absent any explicit legislative action, it will be up to GSP to interpret how Georgia's personhood definition applies to traffic laws.

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