The Jolt: Medical Association of Georgia opposes ‘heartbeat’ bill

Credit: Bob Andres

Credit: Bob Andres

On Monday, the state Senate Science and Technology Committee voted 3-2, along both gender and partisan lines, to advance House Bill 481, the "heartbeat" measure that would ban nearly all abortions in Georgia.

One day earlier, the Medical Association of Georgia, the most influential physicians’ group in the state, addressed a letter to state Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, announcing that it would oppose the legislation.

The letter failed to get a mention before Monday’s vote. We’ve asked Unterman for comment, but have not heard back.

“HB 481 both criminalizes physicians and creates a private right of action against physicians when physicians care for their patients within their scope of practice,” wrote Dr. Rutledge Forney, president of MAG.

Forney warned that the bill, which would ban any abortion once a heartbeat is detected, “could undermine efforts to recruit and retain OB-GYN in Georgia, and could further restrict access to health care in rural Georgia.”

Half of Georgia's 159 counties have no obstetrician/gynecologist.

The Senate version of the bill was unveiled in committee last week. Unterman delayed a vote until Monday to allow committee members to draft amendments.

HB 481 is not on the Senate’s Thursday calendar, but could come up for a full floor vote on Friday.

The measure presents a dilemma for the two female members of the Senate GOP caucus. State Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta, is a physician. As chair of her committee, Unterman was not required to vote on Monday. The presence of an ex officio member, state Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick, resulted in a majority of three Republican men, who voted down amendments proposed by two Democratic women – and sent HB 481 to the Senate Rules Committee.

As mentioned, HB 481 prohibits abortion once the heartbeat of the “unborn child” – the word “fetus” is not used -- is detected. That’s at roughly six weeks, before most women know they’re pregnant.

One of the main features of the “heartbeat” bill is a self-enforcement provision that allows women who undergo an abortion to sue the abortion provider for damages – based on the loss of a human life that began at six weeks.

For decades, the Medical Association of Georgia has waged a war in the state Capitol against malpractice suits that it says contribute to high insurance rates among physicians.

Read the entire MAG letter here, or stroll through it below:


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