Ga. House Approves 'Fetal Pain' Bill To Ban Abortion After 20 Weeks

March 1, 2012 — The Georgia House on Wednesday voted to approve a bill (HB 954) that would ban abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy, when supporters of the measure claim that a fetus begins to feel pain, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Doug McKillip (R), passed 102-65 on a mostly party-line vote (Quinn, Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/29). The measure now heads to the state Senate (Henry, AP/NECN, 2/29).

Opponents of the bill said it would legislate doctors' decisions, force women to continue their pregnancies when it is known that a fetus will be delivered stillborn because of medical issues and make it risky for doctors to handle complicated pregnancies. Physicians could be charged with a felony and face up to 10 years in prison for violating the measure (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/29).

Under current Georgia law, abortion care in the last three months of pregnancy is permitted to protect the life or health of the woman, according to the AP/NECN. McKillip's bill does not include an exception to protect a woman's mental health, which is allowed under current law (AP/NECN, 2/29). The bill also would not allow exceptions for cases of incest, the Journal-Constitution reports (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/29).

Rep. Sharon Cooper (R) and other opponents of the bill said it would prompt women to seek abortion care in other states if they could afford it, while lower-income women who find out about complications late in pregnancy would be forced to give birth (AP/NECN, 2/29). House Minority Leader Stacey Abrams (D) said opponents of the bill hope to amend it to extend the cutoff to 24 weeks and to add exceptions for pregnancies in which the fetus is not viable (Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 2/29).