GEORGIA has become the latest US state to introduce the nation's most extreme abortion ban – barring terminations after as early as six weeks.
Under the controversial new law, it is illegal to carry out an abortion if a doctor is able to detect a foetal heartbeat.
AP:Associated Press3 Protesters rally outside of the Georgia State Capitol building on Tuesday following the signing of the new anti-abortion bill
This can be as early as six weeks and before many women know they are pregnant.
Harsh penalties will be imposed for women who do abort their pregnancies, including life imprisonment and even the death penalty.
Currently, women in Georgia can receive an abortion up to their 20th week of pregnancy.
Similar laws apply to England, Wales and Scotland where abortion is legal up until 24 weeks.
Georgia Republican governor Brian Kemp, who signed the legislation into law on Tuesday, said he approved the bill "to ensure that all Georgians have the opportunity to live, grow, learn and prosper in our great state
We will not back down. We will always continue to fight for life.
Georgia Governor, Brian Kemp
"We will not back down," Kemp said. "We will always continue to fight for life."
A new conservative majority on the US Supreme Court has been pushing abortion bans in recent months with governors in Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio all signing similar bills.
Protesters and Planned Parenthood representatives have heavily criticised the new law, which they say criminalises doctors for providing lifesaving care and is "playing politics with women's health."
The legislation is set to be challenged in court, but could take effect as soon as January 1 of 2020, with exceptions for cases of rape and incest, or if the mother's life is at risk.
AP:Associated Press3 Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp, right, shakes hands with state Senator Renee Unterman, left, after signing the abortion ban
It also would allow for abortions when a foetus is determined not to be viable because of serious medical issues.
In addition, the bill includes provisions for alimony, child support and even income tax deductions for foetuses, declaring that "the full value of a child begins at the point when a detectable human heartbeat exists.
In the first few months of 2019, "heartbeat" abortion bans have been signed into law in four states: Mississippi, Kentucky, Ohio, and now Georgia.
Lawmakers in other states including Tennessee, Missouri, South Carolina, Florida, Texas, Louisiana and West Virginia, are considering similar proposals.
A bill that recently passed the Alabama House would outlaw abortions at any stage of pregnancy, with a few narrow exceptions.
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Kentucky's law was immediately challenged by the ACLU after it was signed in March, and a federal judge temporarily blocked it.
Earlier versions of the law passed in North Dakota and Iowa have also been struck down in court.
According to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, about 33,000 abortions were provided in Georgia in 2014.