The bill, HB 954, is sponsored by Doug McKillip, a Republican from Athens, Ga. and is intended to ban abortions after 20 weeks. The bill is based on the theory that a fetus can experience pain after 20 weeks of gestation.
“Those nerve endings involved in pain transmission are seen as early as seven weeks after fertilization, and are found throughout all the organs in the baby’s body by 20 weeks of gestation. From 18 weeks of gestation, the fetus responds to painful stimuli with a rise in those stress hormones that are seen in adults,” said Gen Wilson of Georgia Right to Life.
Under the bill, a licensed medical professional cannot perform or induce an abortion until the probable age of gestation is completed. Performing an abortion before the age is determined will subject the physician to criminal actions and medical licensing sanctions.
Currently, Georgia allows abortions up to 26 weeks and possibly later if the mother’s health is threatened by the pregnancy. HB 954 will further require that the woman is at risk of death or “irreversible physical impairment” should the pregnancy continue.
Agnes Scott student, Chesya Burke ’13, said “Abortion is a difficult subject and despite appearances, it is more often than not a difficult choice for women. HB 954 proposes to ban abortions after 20 weeks unless the mother’s life is at risk, but not in cases of rape or incest. The bill also doesn’t take into account many other factors for late term abortions, such as lack of money or lack of adequate health care. Taking these decisions out of the hands of women and placing them at the discretion of law makers is disempowering and harmful.”
In response to the battle over reproductive rights, several Democratic female legislators in the Georgia House proposed a bill that would ban men from seeking vasectomies.
“Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies,” said Yasmin Neal of Jonesboro, Ga., one of the bill’s authors. “It is patently unfair that men can avoid unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly, while women’s ability to decide is constantly up for debate throughout the United States.”
Opponents have also argued that, because the bill makes no exceptions for fetuses determined to be unfit for life, women with complicated pregnancies will be treated inhumanely – under the bill, these women will be forced to carry a failing fetus to full-term only for it to die within weeks of birth.
Now that the bill has passed the Georgia House, it will go on to the Georgia State Senate and, if it passes, Georgia will be the sixth state to impose restrictions on abortion based on fetal pain.