Georgia taxpayers can now list embryos as dependents on their tax returns.
In a news release on Monday, Georgia’s department of revenue said it would begin to “recognize any unborn child with a detectable human heartbeat … as eligible for [an] individual income tax dependent exemption”.
The announcement follows the supreme court’s ruling on June 24 that overturned the landmark Roe v Wade ruling that established the nationwide right to an abortion nearly 50 years earlier. A lower federal appellate court had also decided on July 20 to let the Georgia law banning most abortions in the state take effect.
Officials added that taxpayers filing returns from 20 July onward can claim a deduction of up to $3,000 for any fetus whose heartbeat could be detected. That “may occur as early as six weeks’ gestation”, before most women even know they are pregnant, the statement said.
Taxpayers must be ready to provide “relevant medical records or other supporting documentation … if requested by the [revenue] department”.
Legal analysts and advocates for abortion rights greeted the announcement with dismay and skepticism.
Anthony Michael Kreis, a Georgia State University law professor and political scientist, tweeted that some pregnancies detected within six weeks of gestation “result in natural miscarriages”, which could leave the Georgia’s treasury “handing out a lot of cash for pregnancies that would never come to finish.”
Lauren Groh-Wargo, manager of Stacey Abrams’s campaign for Georgia governor, tweeted: “So what happens when you claim your fetus as a dependent and then miscarry later in the pregnancy, you get investigated both for [possible] tax fraud and an illegal abortion?”
The Georgia revenue department’s announcement Monday came less than a month after a pregnant woman in Texas memorably argued to police that her unborn child should count as an additional passenger upon receiving a traffic ticket for driving alone in a high-occupancy – or HOV – lane. The woman did not talk her way out of the ticket but she has said she plans to go to court to try out her argument there.
More than half the states in America have either banned or are expected to ban abortion after the supreme court returned regulation of abortion to the state level. Bans like Georgia’s have forced patients seeking abortions to travel hundreds of thousands from home, at times placing them, their friends, their families and abortion rights organizations in legal jeopardy as some states seek to criminalize helping people terminate pregnancies.