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FACT CHECK: Ilhan Omar Is Spreading a Big Lie About Recently Passed Pro-Life Heartbeat Bills

05-24-2019
Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota)

Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) falsely claimed this week the recently approved pro-life laws in Alabama and Georgia would “criminalize women” who obtain abortions.

The Democratic lawmaker made the untrue comments Wednesday, when she spoke on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.

“I rise today to defy the horrifying attacks happening against women’s reproductive rights all across this country,” said Omar. “Religious fundamentalists are currently trying to manipulate state laws in order to impose their beliefs on an entire society, all with complete disregard for voices and the rights of American women.”

She continued, “The recent efforts like those in Alabama, in Georgia, are only the latest in a long history of efforts to criminalize women for simply existing, to punish us when we don’t conform to their attempts to control us.”

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But there’s one major problem with what Omar is saying: It’s totally made up.

Just one page into the pro-life Alabama law, H.B. 314, it very clearly states: “This bill would provide that a woman who receives an abortion will not be held criminally culpable or civilly liable for receiving the abortion.”

And a Snopes fact check was unable to prove the Georgia bill, H.B. 481, which outlaws abortion after an embryonic heartbeat is detectable, usually around six weeks into pregnancy, would criminalize women for having abortions or experiencing a miscarriage.

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Supposed reports about the Georgia law criminalizing women who obtain abortions, Snopes concluded, are actually “inferences drawn from the legislation’s recognition of an unborn fetus as a person and its expanded definition of abortion.”

The initial suggestion the Georgia bill, signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp (R), would criminalize women who have abortions came from Slate writer Mark Joseph Stern, who noted the pro-life legislation “redefines abortion to be ‘the act of using, prescribing, or administering any instrument, substance, device, or other means with the purpose to terminate a pregnancy.’”

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Laws currently on the books in the Peach State rely on the “third person” dynamic, according to Ronald L. Carlson, a former trial lawyer and the Fuller E. Callaway Chair of Law Emeritus at the University of Georgia School of Law. He told Snopesprevious laws have held medical personnel who administer abortive care — not the women receiving abortions — criminally responsible for their actions.

Ultimately, Snopes described such characterizations as an “overstatement of reality” and something that will have to be “adjudicated in court.”

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