Anti-abortion group says ‘heartbeat’ bill not restrictive enough

A leading anti-abortion group is urging the Georgia House to reject the "heartbeat bill" that cleared the Senate last week because it is not restrictive enough.

Georgia Right To Life, an anti-abortion political group, said it disagrees with exceptions included in House Bill 481 that would allow abortions in some instances.

House Bill 481 would outlaw abortions once a doctor detects a heartbeat in the womb — which is usually at about six weeks into a pregnancy and before most women know they are pregnant.

Current Georgia law allows abortions to be performed until 20 weeks.

Under the proposal, women still would be able to get later abortions in cases of rape, incest, if the life of the mother is in danger or in instances of “medical futility,” when a fetus would not be able to survive after birth.

Georgia Right To Life Executive Director Zemmie Fleck sent a letter to the group's supporters Tuesday asking them to urge their House representatives to vote against the measure. They want lawmakers to remove the exceptions before giving the bill final approval.

“The legislation contains some strong ‘personhood’ components, and though Georgia Right to Life was hopeful, we are saddened that the bill discriminates against classes of innocent human beings,” Fleck said.

Joshua Edmonds, executive director of anti-abortion group Georgia Life Alliance, said while the legislation is not perfect, his organization supports the measure.

“HB 481 is the only bill this session that can save lives in the womb,” he said. “Even though it’s not perfect, we’re asking all members to vote yes ... to save tens of thousands of beating hearts in Georgia.”

According to the legislation, someone who has become pregnant after an incident of rape or incest would have to file a police report to have the abortion performed.

State Rep. Ed Setzler, the bill's sponsor, has said the exceptions were included as a compromise to gain support for the proposal and could be a divisive issue.

Since the House and Senate approved different versions of the legislation, the chambers would have to agree before it can go the governor’s desk. Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign the legislation after saying during the 2018 campaign that he would sign the strictest abortion laws in the nation.

Two organizations — on opposing sides of the issue — already have vowed to sue the state if the legislation becomes law.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia said last week they believed the law violated the nationwide right to abortion established by the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision.

“The proposed legislation — HB 481 — represents a callous disregard for their health and wellness and contempt for the constitutional rights of Georgia’s women,” said ACLU Executive Director Andrea Young.

Over the weekend, representatives with anti-abortion organization Save the 1 said allowing exceptions to the abortion ban was discriminatory because it valued certain fetuses over others.

“If these discriminatory exceptions remain, we, as an organization, will sue the state of Georgia,” said Heather Hobbs with the organization.

The legislation is expected to be considered by the House before session ends April 2.