Georgia Capitol

Georgia passes “fetal pain” bill amidst dramatic outbursts

It was a roller-coaster fight for pro-life activists at the Georgia State Capitol this week.

At its start on Monday, many Republicans in the Georgia legislature seemed ready to play politics with the lives of the unborn. After Speaker David Ralston blocked S.B. 438 (which would have stopped state employee health care plans from paying for abortion) from getting voted out of committee, the Senate amended H.B. 954 (the “fetal pain” bill), effectively gutting that legislation. Both the Georgia Senate and the House of Representatives are controlled by a majority of Republicans.

All the way until the last day of the 40-day session, it appeared that a stalemate between the Senate and the House would prevent any anti-abortion legislation from getting passed into law. But within the last few hours of the session, lawmakers negotiated a compromise. To some it looked like the Republicans took two steps backward and one step forward from the version of the bill approved by Georgia Right to Life (GRTL).

Rep. Doug McKillip

As originally written by its sponsor, State Representative Doug McKillip (R-Athens), the proposal would have reduced  the time women in Georgia may have an abortion by about six weeks. The Senate’s changes forced into the bill an exemption for “medically futile” pregnancies, giving doctors the option to perform an abortion past 20 weeks when a fetus has congenital or chromosomal defects.

Although the House — including Rep. McKillip and House Speaker David Ralston (R-Blue Ridge) — initially balked, on the last day of the session they agreed to move forward with a compromise. Included in the compromise was a definition in the bill describing what “medically futile” means: profound and “irremediable” anomalies that would be “incompatible with sustaining life after birth.”

Other smaller tweaks to the bill’s language were made, and Rep. McKillip agreed to keep another Senate change that would fail to hold doctors accountable in civil suits brought as a result of the legislation.

In essence the loophole remained in the bill but was tightened — women seeking abortions after 20 weeks can still get them under certain circumstances. But Rep. McKillip and the bill’s supporters still declared victory. “We agreed with that to make sure we have an enforceable statute,” Rep. McKillip said.

The AJC reported on the day:

The emotional nature of the debate spilled over into the lobby, as the head of Georgia Right to Life and a representative of a doctor’s organization almost came to blows outside the Senate.

GRTL president Dan Becker and John Walraven, executive director of the Perinatal Infertility Coalition of Georgia, had a heated verbal exchange that became physical Thursday. A state trooper standing nearby spoke to both men and to witnesses, but no charges were filed. The police presence at the state capitol was increased substantially until a small fleet of police vehicles lined both sides of the curb on Mitchell Street.

“We commend the Legislature,” Becker said later, despite not fully endorsing the compromise. “This is one of the toughest pro-life laws in the nation. We will not comment on support, not support, endorse, not endorse. It will save roughly 1,500 lives a year.”

Meanwhile, Senate Democratic put up their routine fuss. They had already stormed out when Senator Crane’s pro-life health care bill passed. They repeated this gesture for the fetal pain bill as it passed their chamber. Sporting yellow police tape, they marched into the hallways and, joined with other H.B. 954 opponents, and shouted, “We will remember!”

“The GOP war on women is alive and well in Georgia,” said Senator Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta). Within the hour, the bill passed the House on a 106-59 vote.

Six states – Nebraska, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Alabama – have similar “fetal pain” restrictions. A seventh, North Carolina, restricts abortion at 20 weeks.

  • smrtrthnu

    the ficticious GOP War on Women?  Not effective as a diversion from the very real War on Babies. 

    My mother was given an unpleasant prognosis while pregnant with me, but it was legal only to help her and help me.  Abortion allows doctors to recommend snuffing a child that might prove to be a malpractic liability.  It’s not about quality of life for the children, but rather abortion is about the quality of life of the ob/gyns that refer for abortion. 

    • Oedipa Mossmoon

      Read the polls lately? Romney up with men by one point. Obama up with women by 18 points.

      • go4kids

        Too bad babies can’t vote.

        •  Well no one under 18 can vote. Do you feel terrible for those middle schoolers and high schoolers too?

          • Guest

            I would if they were being torn apart and the president supported it.

          •  Well young adults are being torn apart in Iraq and Afghanistan but somehow I don’t think that bothers you.

          •  Well young adults are being torn apart in Iraq and Afghanistan but somehow I don’t think that bothers you.

          • Guest

            Why would you make such an awful assumption about a total stranger?

          •  And embryos and fetus’s don’t get “torn apart”. They are too small for that

          • grdawg

            Oh really?  Maybe you need to read your facts on abortion procedures Dilatation & Curettage (D&C):  If you don’t like that website, just look up that procedure on any other site and read the description.  You’re also incredibly wrong that “they are too small for that.”  Specifically, did you know that a baby is called a “fetus” from 8 weeks until she’s born.  Yeah…not too small at all.

          •  And embryos and fetus’s don’t get “torn apart”. They are too small for that

      • Frederick Weaver


        It’s sad that so many women want to slaves to Big Government rather than be true feminists by getting a job, earning their own money, and buying their own birth control.

  • StephanieRose

    Praise God! Lets keep it coming, until every unborn baby is safe! This is not a “war on women”, this is a defense of human life!

  • I hope Georgia has figured out how to fund the welfare and food stamps for the new 1,500 lives a year that they saved.  Oh right.. it’s only ‘Pro-Life’ until the fetus is born.. then it’s not their problem.

    • Guest

      I’m pretty sure not all of them would actually be on welfare.

      We oppose infanticide too.  Your argument is invalid.

      • Frederick Weaver

        @Guest – Deb’s stereotypical comment ranks up their with “All Black men are drug dealers.”

    • Frederick Weaver

       – Crisis pregnancy centers like the one I volunteer at provide FREE baby clothes, formula, strollers, and even parenting classes for single mothers.  By the way, we volunteers accept said mothers no matter their race, class, religion, politcal party, sexual orientation.

      By contrast, Planned Parenthood expects women with crisis pregnancies, including poor ones, to pay at least an arm for their services.  Doesn’t sound really compassionate, does it?