Sometime in the last month, a friend told me that Margaret Atwood said her dystopian novel, A Handmaid’s Tale, was not supposed to be predictive. When the Canadian author wrote this book in the early 1980s, could she have imagined that her fictional theocracy would foreshadow, in her lifetime, the environment south of the 49th parallel?
The Georgia General Assembly is on the verge of prohibiting almost all abortions after 20 weeks, even if a pregnancy resulted from rape or incest or in the case of a fetus that “is doomed to die an excruciating death within hours of birth.” The premise? That a 20+ week old fetus can feel pain.
The Senate is slated to vote Monday on HB954, “to change certain provisions relating to criminal abortion.” The legislation, known anecdotally as the Fetal Pain Bill, would reduce by six weeks the time in which a Georgia woman could obtain a legal abortion.
HB954, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, was introduced by Rep. Doug McKillip (R-Athens) and has already passed the House (102-65). In this bill, Georgia’s politicians are inserting themselves between a woman and her doctor.
House Bill 954 threatens to put an obstetrician in jail for caring for any pregnancy with complications after 20 weeks. If this legislation becomes law, a woman whose water breaks at 21 weeks gestation would be legally forced to have a Cesarean delivery in order to protect the “life” of a non-viable baby since the process of labor usually results in death of the baby at this gestational age.
As a practicing obstetrician and gynecologist in Athens, I know that difficult clinical situations of an impending delivery before the point of viability occur multiple times each year in our community. The families are devastated. The physician and nursing team are the support to assist these families as they suffer through these losses.
There is no other medical specialty where legislators have felt the need to intrude as much as they do in women’s health. Do they not think that women and their medically trained physicians can give appropriate care?
It’s time for the government to get out of my examination room. If you, legislators, want to practice medicine, go to medical school.
Earlier this month, the Georgia Obstetrical and Gynecological Society offices were burglarized and its computers, containing information on membership, were stolen. The Society had urged its members to oppose HB954.
Last Monday, the Senate Health and Human Services Committee approved the bill:
Dr. Anne Patterson, who practices maternal fetal medicine, said medical experts widely believe fetuses do not fully develop connections related to pain until about 28 weeks. L. Lynn Hogue, an emeritus law professor at Georgia State University, said the U.S. Supreme Court has found repeatedly that a fetus’ “viability means the capability of meaningful life outside the mother’s womb.” The bill, he said, flies in the face of that definition.
The bill is part of a nationally crafted campaign to put women back in the kitchen and bedroom, where they belong, donja know. Last year, National Review reported that “fetal-pain laws are good pro-life strategy” and have been passed in a swath of red states: Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska and Oklahoma.
You cannot claim to be defending life when you condemn a would-be mother to give birth to death. The bill is angry and punitive, a brutal insistence that if God or nature has dictated that a mother and child go through such torture, then said torture will by God occur. Dan Becker, head of Georgia Right To Life, even warned that those seeking an exception for medically futile pregnancies are part of “a new eugenics movement in the United States” similar to that in Nazi Germany.
Wow. Even the Nazi card.