The Georgia Department of Revenue confirmed in guidance issued Monday that residents may claim an unborn fetus as a dependent on their state tax forms, thus qualifying for an exemption under state law.
The guidance was expected, based on the language of the state’s abortion ban, but it still marks a disturbing victory for anti-abortion activists who wish to establish fetal personhood and extend them constitutional rights.
Georgia passed a law banning abortion around the six-week mark in 2019, but it was prevented from going into effect until the Supreme Court overturned abortion rights across the country in late June. A federal appeals court subsequently greenlighted the ban.
In Georgia, any fetus displaying electrical activity ― a precursor to a heartbeat that can appear around six weeks ― is now “eligible for the Georgia individual income tax dependent exemption,” the state’s Revenue Department said. Pregnant taxpayers are eligible for a $3,000 deduction per fetus, beginning when the law took effect on July 20, 2022.
“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 guidance said.
The anti-abortion law specifies that a fetus with electrical activity qualifies as a “dependent minor.” It also defines “unborn child” as “a member of the species Homo sapiens at any stage of development who is carried in the womb.”
It is not clear what action the state would take, if any, in the event of a miscarriage after a pregnant person has filed their taxes. In response to a request for clarification, a department representative told HuffPost additional instruction would be provided later this year.
Georgia’s law does not criminalize “spontaneous abortion” or abortion in “medically futile” cases, including ectopic pregnancy. But it does include a provision allowing a pregnant person to sue for civil damages in the event their pregnancy is terminated in violation of the law.
The 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution implies that citizenship is defined at birth. But some anti-abortion conservatives are aiming to extend constitutional rights to fetuses, including those at nonviable stages, or even a fertilized embryo. Their efforts could have dire implications for people using fertility treatments and result in increased state surveillance of pregnant people, among other consequences.