ATLANTA — Georgia's Department of Revenue made official this week that unborn children will be eligible for a $3,000 income tax exemption under the state's abortion law, now that it has gone into effect.
While the ban of abortions at the moment a "fetal heartbeat" can be detected - about six weeks into a pregnancy - was the most consequential and contentious element of the law, it did also contain several provisions relating to the status of unborn children.
One of those was the tax exemption - with the law stating "...any unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat... shall qualify as a dependent minor."
Lower federal courts put the Georgia law into effect last month following the overturning of Roe v. Wade by the Supreme Court.
Georgia Department of Revenue tax guidance on unborn children
The Department of Revenue said any pregnancy after the law's taking effect on July 20 through the end of the year would be eligible for a dependent tax exemption.
The department gave this guidance on how to claim it:
- For Tax Year 2022, the deduction for dependent unborn children will be a subtraction on Line 12, “Other Adjustments,” of Form 500 Schedule 1.
"Similar to any other deduction claimed on an income tax return, relevant medical records or other supporting documentation shall be provided to support the dependent deduction claimed if requested by the Department," the agency said.
The Georgia abortion law, H.B. 481 (Living Infants and Fairness Equality (LIFE) Act), includes other provisions for unborn children - such as child support and civil damages if the child is killed - that will also presumably begin taking effect.
It's unclear whether or how unborn children might be eligible for other benefits - such as, say, food stamps. But the way the state has defined life would appear to potentially open the door.
How Georgia's law defines life and restricts abortion
Section 3 amends how Georgia defines life, to include fetuses and embryos with the clause: "'Natural person' means any human being including an unborn child."
It further adds: "'Unborn child' means a member of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development who is carried in the womb."
From there, the law defines how abortions are to be restricted in Section 4.
It says that no abortion shall be performed if an unborn child has a "detectable human heartbeat."
That is defined in the previous section as an "embryonic or fetal cardiac activity or the steady and repetitive rhythmic contraction of the heart within the gestational sac." Section 8 of the law also directs the Georgia Department of Public Health to note in its official guidance that, "As early as six weeks' gestation, an unborn child may have a detectable human heartbeat."
Abortion of an unborn child after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, according to the law, may only occur when:
- A physician determines a medical emergency exists.
- A physician determines the pregnancy is "medically futile."
- The pregnancy is a result of rape or incest, "in which an official police report has been filed alleging the offense of rape or incest," and the pregnancy has not yet surpassed 20 weeks.
How the state's new definition of life takes practical effect across state services and legal challenges is, in many respects, still an open question.