After an emotional 14-hour workday that included fist-fights between lobbyists and a walk-out by women Democrats, the Georgia House passed a Senate-approved bill Thursday night that criminalizes abortion after 20 weeks.
The bill, which does not contain rape or incest exemptions, is expected to receive a signature from Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.
Commonly referred to as the “fetal pain bill” by Georgian Republicans and as the “women as livestock bill” by everyone else, HB 954 garnered national attention this month when state Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) compared pregnant women carrying stillborn fetuses to the cows and pigs on his farm. According to Rep. England and his warped thought process, if farmers have to “deliver calves, dead or alive,” then a woman carrying a dead fetus, or one not expected to survive, should have to carry it to term.
The bill as first proposed outlawed all abortions after 20 weeks under all circumstances. After negotiations with the Senate, the House passed a revised HB 954 that makes an exemption for “medically futile” pregnancies or those in which the woman’s life or health is threatened.
If this makes its seem like Rep. England and the rest of the representatives looked beyond their cows and pigs and recognized women as capable, full-thinking human beings, think again: HB 954 excludes a woman’s “emotional or mental condition,” which means women suffering from mental illness would be forced to carry a pregnancy to term. It also ignores pregnant women who are suicidal and driven to inflict harm on themselves because of their unwanted pregnancy.
In order for a pregnancy to be considered “medically futile,” the fetus must be diagnosed with an irreversible chromosomal or congenital anomaly that is “incompatible with sustaining life after birth.” The Georgia “fetal pain” bill also stipulates that the abortion must be performed in such a way that the fetus emerges alive. If doctors perform the abortion differently, they face felony charges and up to 10 years in prison. Given all this, the so-called compromise suddenly does not look like much of a bargain.
For anti-choice lawmakers, it is an item of faith that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks. But scientists disagree. Reviews of all existing medical evidence have found that fetuses have not developed the neurological structures to feel pain until at least 25 weeks, and likely not until 28 weeks, in the third trimester.
Although Roe v. Wade set the precedent for abortion to be legal up to 24 weeks, state legislatures continue to ram through restrictive anti-choice laws. Georgia will join six other states with fetal pain restrictions—Nebraska, Indiana, Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma and Alabama. North Carolina prohibits abortion after 20 weeks.
Arizona is now poised to join the roster, as the Senate passed a 20-week abortion restriction Tuesday. The bill, which awaits final approval from the House, also requires women seeking abortions to look at a state-run website littered with anti-choice propaganda.
And in the Northeast, arguably the country’s most pro-choice region, the New Hampshire House voted Thursday to ban abortion after 20 weeks. The bill now moves to the Senate to join four other anti-abortion bills passed by the House this month.
Although GOP’s war on women continues to deal blow after blow, this week held two small victories: The Oklahoma Supreme Court struck down mandated ultrasounds while the Idaho House dropped the ultrasound bill all together.