By Lauren Barbato, Ms.Magazine Blog, March 31, 2012
After an emotional 14-hour workday that included fist-fights
between lobbyists and a walk-out by women Democrats, the
Georgia House passed a Senate-approved bill Thursday night
that criminalizes abortion after 20 weeks.
The bill, which does not contain rape or incest exemptions,
is expected to receive a signature from Republican Gov.
Commonly referred to as the “fetal pain bill” by Georgian
Republicans and as the “women as livestock bill” by everyone
else, HB 954 garnered national attention this month when
state Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) compared pregnant women
carrying stillborn fetuses to the cows and pigs on his farm.
According to Rep. England and his warped thought process, if
farmers have to “deliver calves, dead or alive,” then a
woman carrying a dead fetus, or one not expected to survive,
should have to carry it to term.
The bill as first proposed outlawed all abortions after 20
weeks under all circumstances. After negotiations with the
Senate, the House passed a revised HB 954 that makes an
exemption for “medically futile” pregnancies or those in
which the woman’s life or health is threatened.
If this makes its seem like Rep. England and the rest of the
representatives looked beyond their cows and pigs and
recognized women as capable, full-thinking human beings,
think again: HB 954 excludes a woman’s “emotional or mental
condition,” which means women suffering from mental illness
would be forced to carry a pregnancy to term. It also
ignores pregnant women who are suicidal and driven to
inflict harm on themselves because of their unwanted
In order for a pregnancy to be considered “medically futile,”
the fetus must be diagnosed with an irreversible chromosomal
or congenital anomaly that is “incompatible with sustaining
life after birth.” The Georgia “fetal pain” bill also
stipulates that the abortion must be performed in such a way
that the fetus emerges alive. If doctors perform the
abortion differently, they face felony charges and up to 10
years in prison. Given all this, the so-called compromise
suddenly does not look like much of a bargain.
For anti-choice lawmakers, it is an item of faith that
fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks. But scientists disagree.
Reviews of all existing medical evidence have found that
fetuses have not developed the neurological structures to
feel pain until at least 25 weeks, and likely not until 28
weeks, in the third trimester.
Although Roe v. Wade set the precedent for abortion to be
legal up to 24 weeks, state legislatures continue to ram
through restrictive anti-choice laws. Georgia will join six
other states with fetal pain restrictions-Nebraska, Indiana,
Idaho, Kansas, Oklahoma and Alabama. North Carolina
prohibits abortion after 20 weeks.
Arizona is now poised to join the roster, as the Senate
passed a 20-week abortion restriction Tuesday. The bill,
which awaits final approval from the House, also requires
women seeking abortions to look at a state-run website
littered with anti-choice propaganda.
And in the Northeast, arguably the country’s most pro-choice
region, the New Hampshire House voted Thursday to ban
abortion after 20 weeks. The bill now moves to the Senate to
join four other anti-abortion bills passed by the House this
Although GOP’s war on women continues to deal blow after
blow, this week held two small victories: The Oklahoma
Supreme Court struck down mandated ultrasounds while the
Idaho House dropped the ultrasound bill all together.