Georgia Senate OKs governor-backed ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban | TribLIVE.com
U.S./World

Georgia Senate OKs governor-backed ‘heartbeat’ abortion ban

Associated Press
924089_web1_924089-129b7f97b9bf44c389ead22f1d84cf1a
A woman records a group of pro-abortion rights demonstrators the 35th legislative day at the Georgia State Capitol building in downtown Atlanta, Friday, March 22, 2019. The Georgia Senate is set for a lengthy debate on the anti-abortion “heartbeat bill” Friday. Sen. Renee Unterman is carrying the bill for Rep. Ed Setzler. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
924089_web1_924089-da8033fbd9dd40c9ac061d08d19f2810
Pro-abortion rights and anti-abortion demonstrators display their signs in the lobby of the Georgia State Capitol building during the 35th legislative day at the Georgia State Capitol building in downtown Atlanta, Friday, March 22, 2019. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
924089_web1_924089-c695955ed5744396be21f52425a1df3d
Georgia State Troopers walk toward the Senate chambers gallery during the 35th legislative day at the Georgia State Capitol building in downtown Atlanta, Friday, March 22, 2019. The Georgia Senate is set for a lengthy debate on the anti-abortion “heartbeat bill” Friday. Sen. Renee Unterman is carrying the bill for Rep. Ed Setzler. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)
924089_web1_924089-0ad973faced84469aeb33c41e06dcb90
A line of Georgia State Trooper vehicles sit outside of the Georgia State Capitol building as members of the Senate debate HB 481 on the 35th legislative day at the Georgia State Capitol building in downtown Atlanta, Friday, March 22, 2019. (Alyssa Pointer/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

ATLANTA — Amid protests and a heavy police presence, the Georgia Senate on Friday passed a bill banning almost all abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

The bill, backed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, passed on a 34-18 party-line vote and would be one of the nation’s strictest anti-abortion measures if it becomes law and is not blocked in court battles. It will now go back to the House to approve Senate changes, where it’s expected to pass again.

Women in Georgia can currently seek an abortion during the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy. A heartbeat can be detected in an embryo as early as six weeks into pregnancy, before many women know they’re pregnant.

Georgia lawmakers and GOP-led legislatures in several other states have pushed anti-abortion measures in hopes of getting a case before the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge its 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion nationwide. The push comes amid rising optimism among conservatives that the restrictions might prevail in the reconfigured high court that includes President Donald Trump appointees Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

Andrea Young, the executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in an interview Friday that the group would challenge the heartbeat abortion ban in court if it’s signed into law.

Young called the legislation “clearly unconstitutional” and said that it “flies in the face of 50 years of legal precedent.”

Several Republican senators, most of them men, spoke in favor of the bill, while several Democratic senators, most of them women, argued against it.

Many Republican lawmakers in favor of the legislation outlined their position in religious terms.

“There are many scriptures that make it clear to me that God knew us and had a plan for us when we were still in our mother’s womb,” said Republican Sen. Greg Kirk. “The word abortion is not going to be found in the Bible.”

Democratic Sen. Valencia Seay took issue with that line of reasoning, saying lawmakers were letting their “personal religious beliefs dictate everyone else’s ability to have a choice.”

Republican Sen. Greg Dolezal, speaking in favor of the legislation, said that every life is a miracle.

“I don’t know how many of us are in this room right now, probably 200, but I am looking at 200 miracles,” Dolezal said. He then began to look around the chamber. “Senator, you are a miracle. Senator, you are a miracle,” then up to the balcony, “Sir, you’re a miracle. Ma’am, you’re a miracle.”

Democratic Sen. Jen Jordan, questioned whether the standard being contemplated by the legislation was actually a human heartbeat.

“Every physician has said that the fetal cardiac activity present early in pregnancies is not a beating heart, and no matter how many times you say it, no matter what you call this bill, it does not make it so,” she said.

A large group of women at the Georgia Capitol protested the bill dressed as characters from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which depicts a dystopian future where women are controlled by the government and forced to breed. The activists in red cloaks and white bonnets have been an almost daily presence ever since the House passed the measure earlier this month.

A smaller contingent of anti-abortion advocates held signs and urged lawmakers to pass the bill.

Debate took place amid heavy security. Over two dozen Georgia State Patrol cars flanked the Capitol building and as many troopers stood watch inside.

During public testimony last week, several physicians and physician groups came out against the bill, saying it contained medical inaccuracies and would worsen health care for women in Georgia, a state that already has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the country.

Two influential groups, the Medical Association of Georgia and the Georgia Academy of Family Physicians, sent letters to lawmakers opposing the legislation.

GOP lawmakers in Tennessee, Florida, South Carolina and Ohio are pursuing similar legislation, while Republican governors in Mississippi and Kentucky have recently signed heartbeat abortion bans.

Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant on Thursday signed a heartbeat abortion ban, despite a federal judge’s ruling last year that struck down a less-restrictive law limiting abortions there.

Kentucky’s law was temporarily blocked by a federal judge shortly after Republican Gov. Matt Bevin signed it on March 14, in response to a challenge by the ACLU.

A state judge found Iowa’s heartbeat abortion ban to be unconstitutional in January.

The Georgia bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest — but only when the woman files a police report first — and to save the life of the mother. It also allows for abortions when a fetus is determined to be not compatible with life due to serious medical issues.

If signed, the law would take effect January 1, 2020.

Gov. Kemp said in a statement Friday that he looked “forward to working with the House to ensure this legislation’s final passage in the coming days.”

Categories: News | World
TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.