March 27, 2012 — The Georgia Senate on Monday voted 36-19 to approve an amended version of a bill (HB 954) that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, when supporters of the measure claim that a fetus can feel pain, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports.
Senators amended the measure to include an exemption for "medically futile" pregnancies, which would apply if a fetus has congenital or chromosomal defects. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the notion of forcing women to continue medically risky pregnancies was a key point of contention in the debate over the bill.
The bill also would impose felony charges on doctors convicted of violating its provisions, with penalties of up to 10 years in prison (Torres, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/26).
Under current law, abortion is permitted in the last three months of pregnancy to protect the life or health of the woman. The bill does not include an exception for rape, incest or to protect a woman's mental health, which is allowed under current law (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/21). Under the bill, abortion would be permitted after 20 weeks in a medical emergency (AP/11Alive, 3/27).
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Doug McKillip (R), declined to comment on the changes to the bill. The measure now returns to the House, which could agree to the changes or drop the bill from the legislative agenda (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 3/26).