Health

Georgia ‘Heartbeat Bill’ Clears Another Legislative Hurdle

The so-called “heartbeat bill" would ban most abortions at six weeks.
The so-called “heartbeat bill" would ban most abortions at six weeks.
Credit Mike Stewart / Associated Press file
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A bill that would ban most abortions at six weeks continues to make progress in the Georgia legislature.

A state Senate committee approved HB 481, the so-called “heartbeat bill,” Monday 3 to 2. Every Republican on the committee voted in favor of the legislation, every Democrat voted against it.

The measure, which is slightly different from the version that passed in the state House earlier this month, could make it to a floor vote in the state Senate as soon as this week.

“I’m very pleased,” said Virginia Galloway with the Faith and Freedom Coalition, which supports the bill. “I’m just delighted that we have a governor that has expressed support for pro-life issues.”

Gov. Brian Kemp campaigned on a signing legislation that would ban abortions after six weeks, when an embryo generally has a detectable heartbeat. Supporters argue that’s the point when embryos deserve legal protections.

HB 481 would limit abortions after six weeks except in the case of rape or incest if a woman files a police report, to save the life of the mother, or if the fetus has serious medical issues.

Current Georgia law allows abortions during the first 20 weeks of a pregnancy. That time limit was set by state lawmakers in 2012 and set off a legal fight.

The state Senate committee’s vote to advance the bill comes just days after they heard hours of emotional testimony on the matter.

After the measure was approved, protesters gathered outside the committee room chanted “shame” until Georgia Capitol police threatened to arrest them.

“My colleagues who are supporting the bill continue to use the term common sense,” said Sen. Valencia Seay, who voted against moving HB 481 forward. “Common sense is leave women alone.”

Opponents worry the measure, if passed into law, will trigger a legal fight that could eventually lead the U.S. Supreme Court to revisit previous rulings on abortion rights.

A federal judge in Kentucky blocked a law in that state that mirrors Georgia’s “heartbeat bill” from taking effect late last week.