The so-called “heartbeat” abortion bill won final approval Friday in the Georgia General Assembly and was sent to the governor, who is expected to sign the controversial measure.
The Republican-majority House voted in favor of House Bill 481, called the Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act, said Kaleb McMichen, director of communications for House Speaker David Ralston.
The bill was approved 92 to 78, McMichen said.
Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, supports the legislation and is expected to sign it.
“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.
The legislation would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected — as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Many women don’t know they are pregnant at that point. At present, women are allowed to undergo the procedure up to their 20th week of pregnancy.
“No abortion is authorized or shall be performed if the unborn child has been determined to have a human heartbeat,” the bill states, unless the pregnancy risks the life or poses substantial and irreversible physical harm to the pregnant woman.
The bill’s author, state Rep. Ed Setzler, a Republican, said that abortion is a “barbaric procedure” and many other options exist for women, including adoption and the “morning after” pill.
The American Civil Liberties Union said it will go to court if Kemp signs the bill. It said the legislation “would ban safe, legal abortion and criminalize the most intimate decision women and couples make.”
The state Senate approved the bill last Friday and sent a version with changes back to the House.
Legislators in other states have pursued similar bills. Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant signed a bill into law this month that would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected.
But many times they are held up in committees, rejected in legislative votes, vetoed by governors and struck down in courts. No state has been able to put a heartbeat bill into lasting practice.
In January, an Iowa judge struck down that state’s fetal heartbeat bill, declaring it unconstitutional. The US Supreme Court has previously declined to weigh in after lower courts blocked bills in North Dakota and Arkansas.
The Georgia legislation has drawn opposition.
Georgia’s Democrats opposed the bill and several lawmakers came to the House with wire hangers and bleach, a reference to the dangerous measures women have taken for self-induced abortions. They said Friday they will work to recruit political candidates to challenge Republicans who supported the legislation.
“In passing the abortion ban, Republicans have shown that they can’t be trusted to make decisions on behalf of Georgia women, Georgia’s healthcare system or Georgia’s economy,” said Nikema WIlliams, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia. “We can’t afford to let them continue to take our state backwards.”
Former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams said Friday she learned some Republicans and business leaders in the state were dismissing the impact of the bill as “irrelevant.”
“There is no leadership in damning women to the whims of yet another test of our humanity. #HB481 is bad for women bc reproductive injustice is real. It is bad for business bc women won’t forget. And it is a stain on a state that once knew how to light & lead the way. #Shame,” Abrams said in a tweet.
Actress Alyssa Milano staunchly opposes the legislation and has urged the film and TV industry, which shoots many projects in Georgia, to get out of the state if the bill becomes law. She uses a hashtag on Twitter that says #HB481IsBad ForBusiness.
“There are over 20 productions shooting in GA & the state just voted to strip women of their bodily autonomy,” she said in a tweet on March 22. “Hollywood! We should stop feeding GA economy.”
The Writers Guild of America East and West had condemned HB481, saying it “would make Georgia an inhospitable place” for those in the film and television industry.
If the bill should become law, “it is entirely possible that many of those in our industry will either want to leave the state or decide not to bring productions here,” the Writers Guild said.