Reporting from Atlanta —
Georgia may soon become the latest state to limit the time frame in which women may have an abortion with a so-called "fetal pain" bill that passed the state's House on Wednesday.
The bill, HB 954, now heads to the Republican-controlled Senate, according to the Associated Press. The legislation would ban abortions after 20 weeks, with exceptions for pregnancies that seriously threaten the life or health of the woman. Currently, the state bans abortions after 24 weeks.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. Doug McKillip, a Republican from Athens, argues that there is "substantial evidence that, by 20 weeks after fertilization, unborn children seek to evade certain stimuli in a manner which in an infant or adult would be interpreted as a response to pain."
A number of medical experts disagree with this contention. In Georgia, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports, opponents say the bill amounts to meddling in some of the most difficult decisions doctors have to make. They also argue that it would force women to carry stillborn fetuses to term.
Under the bill, doctors who violate the new rules could get one to 10 years in prison.
According to the conservative National Review, similar laws have been passed in Nebraska, Idaho, Oklahoma, Kansas, Indiana and Alabama, part of a vigorous national push to set new limits on abortion by opponents of the procedure.
They are being helped along by the wave of Republicans officeholders who flooded state legislatures around the country in the November 2010 elections, when dissatisfaction with Democrats and tea party fever were running high.
The GOP, which tends to favor anti-abortion legislation more than Democrats, gained 680 state legislative seats, the biggest swing of its kind in modern political history, and took control of 14 state house chambers.
Despite Americans' overwhelming concerns about the economy, women's reproductive issues have also become a major national political issue of late. This week in Washington, legislators hotly debated an amendment to a highway bill offered by U.S. Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) that would give employers the right to decline to cover contraceptives for employees on religious or moral grounds.
The amendment came after the Obama administration required that religious institutions cover contraception for their employees, a stance the White House later revised after an outcry from religious groups.
The Blunt amendment is scheduled for a vote Thursday.
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