Georgia’s Anti-Abortion Bill Derailed; One In A Long Line Around The Country
Georgia’s HB954, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, hit a snag in the state Senate on Monday.
The Georgia bill, introduced by Rep. Doug McKillip (R-Athens), was “all but gutted” by a bi-partisan coalition, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The Senate bill would provide an exception to the 20-week rule:
In a major shift, the Senate adopted a last-minute change that would allow women to get an abortion even after the five-month mark if a doctor determined a fetus has a fatal congenital or chromosomal defect. Critics of the bill have said that many abortions performed so late in a pregnancy are sought by parents who learn their unborn child will not survive outside the womb.
“I think we need to give doctors and their patients that opportunity,” said Republican Sen. John Bulloch, who supported changing the bill and ultimately voted for its passage. He said lawmakers should “not punish a pregnant woman.”
Women can now get abortions in Georgia for any reason during the first six months of a pregnancy. They are legal during the last three months only to protect a woman’s life or her physical or mental health. The proposal from McKillip would effectively narrow the time women can decide to legally get an abortion by about a month.
Doctors and geneticists have told state lawmakers that some tests and other information on fetal health may be unavailable before 20 weeks, forcing parents to make decisions based on incomplete information.
Rural Senators expressed concern, as well they should. According to the Guttmacher Institute, in 2008, there were only 32 abortion providers in the state and 94% of Georgia counties had no abortion provider. Almost 3-in-5 Georgia women lived in a county without a provider.
The revised bill passed overwhelmingly, 36-19, and would still “generally ban abortions five months after conception.” Critics noted that the time spent on this bill — four hours in the Senate on Monday — diverts time from pressing issues like jobs.
There are only two days left in the Georgia session. The House could do nothing; vote on this bill (which would send it to Republican Governor Nathan Deal for his signature); or amend this bill and send it back to the Senate (which would also certainly guarantee that it would not become law this session).
Religious conservatives have been quick to criticize legislators who vote their conscience or that of their constituents.
Peach Tea PAC, the tea party organization created this winter as a means of reestablishing the clout of religious conservatism in the Capitol, today published a list of 17 “in-name-only” House Republicans it intends to target in the July primary.
Most, but not all, of the Republicans named voted against — or did not cast a ballot for — HB 954, the bill to shorten the period during which women can seek abortions, even if the fetus is non-viable.
The fight in Georgia is only one of several taking place around the country; the fight is broader than just abortion and includes contraception and insurance coverage. From Guttmacher Institute (emphasis added):
In all 50 states, legislators introduced more than 1,100 reproductive health and rights-related provisions, a sharp increase from the 950 introduced in 2010. By year’s end, 135 of these provisions had been enacted in 36 states, again an increase from the 89 enacted in 2010 and the 77 enacted in 2009.
Fully 68% of these new provisions, 92 provisions in 24 states, restrict access to abortion services, a striking increase from last year, when 26% of new provisions restricted abortion. The 92 new abortion restrictions shattered the previous record of 34 abortion restrictions adopted in 2005.
Last week in Utah, Republican Governor Gary Herbert signed legislation “requiring women to wait 72 hours before receiving an abortion, giving the state the longest waiting period in the country.”
South Dakota has a similar waiting period, but that law has been blocked by a federal judge who has said that the requirement may be unconstitutional because it imposes a burden on women, particularly those in rural parts of the state.
The measure, which triples the current waiting period of 24 hours, takes effect on May 7.
There are currently four abortion providers in Utah, all of them in Salt Lake County. Karrie Galloway, executive director of Planned Parenthood of Utah, said all four are going through licensing and it’s unclear if they will all remain open. In 2008, there were seven.
In Idaho, SB1387 would require “women who opt for an abortion to first pay for an ultrasound of the fetus, and be presented with the results.” As in Virginia, there is also a provision for the invasive “trans-vaginal” ultrasound; that provision did not pass in Virginia. The bill has already passed the Senate, 23-12.
The rhetoric — almost always spoken by men — should make your hair curl:
State Sen. Chuck Winder, R-Boise, no doubt attempting to prove that someone can indeed be more callous and less intelligent than Rush Limbaugh, said the following on the Senate floor last Monday during testimony on the mandatory ultrasound bill: “I would hope that when a woman goes into a physician, with a rape issue, that that physician will indeed ask her about perhaps her marriage, was this pregnancy caused by normal relations in a marriage, or was it truly caused by a rape.”
Contrast that with remarks last week from State Sen. Diane Bilyeu, D-Pocatello:
You know, fellow senators, as a woman, and as a person of faith, this bill makes me want to cry. I want an end to abortion as well as all of you do, and I am totally opposed to abortion except in the case of rape, incest or the life of the mother. But I find this bill to be intrusive into my faith and it is punitive as a woman.
Current Idaho law requires that women seeking an abortion be given the option of having an ultrasound.
In 2008, there were four abortion providers in Idaho, and 95% of Idaho counties had no abortion provider. Almost 7-in-10 Idaho women lived in a county without a provider.
And in Oklahoma City, Roman Catholic Archbishop Paul Coakley “marched with more than 100 people … as part of a rally to support anti-abortion measures before the Legislature.” He had first delivered a mass at the Corpus Christi Catholic Church.
In 2008, there were six abortion providers in Oklahoma, and 96% of Oklahoma counties had no abortion provider. Almost 6-in-10 Oklahoma women lived in these counties.
“I believe this bill is bad whether you’re pro-choice or pro-life,” Moore said as senators debated. “The decision should be left up to a woman and her doctor, not a state representative. It takes us back 50 years.”
And in case it’s not clear where I stand on this issue, this is one of my favorite quotes:
The religious persecution of the ages has been done under what was claimed to be the command of God. I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do to their fellows, because it always coincides with their own desires.
– Susan B Anthony