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GEORGIA – A Georgia House committee approved a bill Wednesday that seeks to ban abortions after an unborn baby’s heartbeat is detected, marking a significant push to expand abortion restrictions in the state.
The House Health and Human Services Committee approved the measure by a 17 to 14 vote along party lines, The Associated Press reported. The bill makes exceptions in cases where the mother’s life is in danger. It also allows for abortions in cases of rape and incest, but only if a woman files a police report.
A heartbeat typically becomes detectable between six and nine weeks of gestation. Many women do not know they are pregnant at six weeks.
The bill’s approval comes after Republican Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp promised to pass the “toughest abortion laws in the country,” during a campaign stop, according to the AP.
“We know life begins at conception. I think that’s worthy of full legal protection,” said state GOP Rep. Ed Setzler who authored the bill. “Certainly we can come together and recognize if there’s a human heartbeat, that child’s worthy of protection.”
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Those opposed to the bill argue it will contribute to more unsafe and self-induced abortions and put women’s health at large in jeopardy. “It’s extremely dangerous for lawmakers to presume that they’re better equipped than women and their health care providers to judge what is appropriate medical care,” said Dr. Melissa Kottke who sits on the Georgia OB-GYN Society advisory board, the AP reported.
The Missouri House also passed a bill on Feb. 27 banning abortions in the presence of a fetal heartbeat.
Arkansas, North Dakota and Iowa have passed similar heartbeat abortion bans but have faced injunctions and court orders preventing them from enforcing the bans.
The bill’s approval comes after the Trump administration issued a final rule on Feb. 22 barring Title X funds from supporting programs and organizations that provide abortions and abortion referrals. Title X is a federal grant program that provides individuals with “comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services,” according to the Department of Health and Human Services.
The rule mandates abortion clinics and family planning clinics are separate, both physically and financially.
Americans are split down the middle on abortion, with 47 percent of Americans identifying as pro-life and 47 percent identifying as pro-choice, according to a February Marist poll. The number of Democrats who say they’re pro-life rose 14 percent between January and February, the poll reveals.
Georgia’s heartbeat bill could soon head to the full House for a vote.