One of the most controversial bills to pass the Georgia House of Representatives on Crossover Day was a bill known as the “Heartbeat bill” that would effectively ban abortion in Georgia once a heartbeat is detected. Here’s everything you need to know about the bill.
The Bill: The ‘heartbeat bill,’ which is numbered House Bill 481, would make abortion illegal once a doctor is able to detect a heartbeat in the womb. The bill considers the moment of fetal heartbeat detection to be the indicator of viable life and sets out that the unborn would be counted as a Georgia citizen and would be eligible for a state income tax deduction.
What is Georgia’s Current Abortion Law?: Georgia’s existing abortion laws ban abortion after 20 weeks. Fetal heartbeats are usually detected around six weeks.
The Exceptions: The bill would allow abortions after the heartbeat has been detected if the pregnancy has been diagnosed by a doctor as medically futile or if an abortion is necessary to avoid the death of the pregnant woman or to avert “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” The exception must be based on a physical condition and not a “mental or emotional” condition.
The bill also excludes rape or incest from the heartbeat requirement, but a police report must have been filed alleging the rape or incest.
Interestingly, the law stipulates that if an abortion is performed for these reasons, the doctor must still attempt to save the life of the fetus. According to the bill, the abortion must be performed “in the manner which, in reasonable medical judgment, provides the best opportunity for the unborn child to survive unless, in reasonable medical judgment, termination of the pregnancy in that manner would pose a greater risk either of the death of the pregnant woman or of the substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman than would another available method.”
What The Bill’s Supporters Say: Supporters of the bill say they are speaking for those who don’t have a voice and are protecting a life that cannot yet speak for itself. According to the bill’s sponsor, Ed Stetzler, a republican from Acworth, this is all about protecting the legal rights of the unborn child.
“A child in the womb should be worthy of full legal protection.” -Stetzler said.
What The Bill’s Opponents Say: Opponents of the bill say the issue is about women’s reproductive rights and during debate on the bill in the House repeatedly said that decisions about reproduction are between a woman, her husband, her doctor and her God. Rep. Beth Moore, a democrat from Peachtree Corners said God ordained women to bear children for a reason.
“God was intentional when he gave women the power and privilege of childbearing, not men, not governments. If you trust God, then you must trust women,” Moore said.
How did they vote?: The bill passed in the House 93-73 with nine representatives excused from the vote. While the vote was partisan, with republicans voting in favor of the bill and democrats voting against it, it didn’t fall completely on partisan lines. Deborah Silcox, a republican from Sandy Springs gave a tearful speech and said she would vote against the heartbeat bill because it was what her constituents elected her to do.
Next Steps: The bill will move to the Senate next. If the Senate passes, Georgia’s pro-life governor Brian Kemp will likely sign it into law.
Update: The bill has passed the legislature and is now on its way to Gov. Brian Kemp.