ATLANTA (GA) — In the face of public outcry and protests from both anti-abortion and pro-abortion rights groups, Georgia's Republican-controlled House on Friday sent a bill to the governor’s desk that would make it nearly impossible for women to get an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
House Bill 481 – also known as the Living Infants Fairness and Equality, or LIFE, Act – is among the harshest pieces of abortion legislation in the nation. With few exceptions, the measure will ban abortions after doctors are able to detect a fetal heartbeat.
Heartbeat detection is usually possible at six weeks of pregnancy, earlier than most women even know they are pregnant. Current Georgia law allows abortions to be performed up until 20 weeks of pregnancy.
"Modern medical science, not available decades ago, demonstrates that unborn children are a class of living, distinct persons... The state of Georgia, applying reasoned judgment to the full body of modern medical science, recognizes the benefits of providing full legal recognition to an unborn child above the minimum requirements of federal law," the bill states.
Exceptions will be made in cases of rape, incest, if the life of the mother is in danger or if a doctor determines the fetus would not survive after birth.
However, women who become pregnant as a result of rape or incest would have to file an official police report in order to be eligible to receive an abortion under the new law. The bill will also allow women who have abortions performed on them to sue for civil damages.
Despite mounting pressure from state medical associations, Hollywood activists, pro-abortion rights protesters and even anti-abortion activists who said the law doesn’t go far enough, lawmakers in Georgia's Republican-controlled House passed the bill Friday in a 92-78 vote.
The state Senate passed HB 481 last week after it was revised by a Senate committee. The legislation went back to the House for approval and will now be sent to the desk of Republican Governor Brian Kemp.
Kemp, who made his desire to sign the strictest abortion laws in the country a major facet of his 2018 gubernatorial campaign, is sure to sign the bill.
"I predict if we pass this bill and the governor signs it, someone will sue," the bill’s sponsor Representative Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, admitted as House members peppered him with questions ahead of Friday's vote.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia issued a statement Friday afternoon confirming Setzler's prediction.
“If Gov. Kemp signs this abortion ban bill into law, the ACLU has one message: we will see you in court,” Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said.
“Georgia has one of the worst maternal death rates in the nation. Black women in Georgia have a maternal death rate of more than three times the unacceptably high rate for white women,” Young continued. “This bill further erodes the health and well-being of Georgia’s women and reveals a callous disregard for their well-established Constitutional rights.”
A representative for Governor Kemp did not immediately respond Friday to a request for comment.
However, Kemp took to Twitter minutes after the House vote to express his support for the bill's passage.
"Georgia values life. We stand up for the innocent and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. The legislature’s bold action reaffirms our priorities and who we are as a state. I thank these lawmakers for their leadership and applaud their undeniable courage," Kemp tweeted.
But anti-abortion group Georgia Right to Life continued to express its disapproval of the bill, which Executive Director Zemmie Fleck said does not go far enough in its protections for fetuses conceived after an incident of rape or fetuses deemed unlikely to survive after birth by a doctor.