A controversial abortion law that was to go into effect at the start of 2013 has been temporarily blocked by a Georgia state judge. The law bans abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy with very few exceptions, which include a defect so severe that the fetus is unlikely to survive, and the life and physical health of the mother. The mental health of the mother cannot be a determining factor, and rape or incest exceptions are not included (Salon).
The law was originally introduced as HB 954, and was referred to as the fetal pain bill by Republicans. It states that 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'” (Salon). The bill also stipulates that the abortion must be performed in such a way that the fetus is delivered alive. If this does not happen, doctors can face felony charges and up to 10 years in prison. In addition, the lack of mental health exceptions means that women with severe mental illness would be forced to give birth, and suicidal women would also not be permitted to end their pregnancies (Salon).
The original bill gained national attention when state Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) compared pregnant women to livestock: “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” (Ms. Magazine). His comments led Democrats to rename the proposed legislation the “Women as Livestock” bill. On the day the Senate-approved bill was passed by the House, women Democrats walked out in protest.
On Monday, a week before the law was to take effect, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Doris Downs temporarily blocked the law after the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia filed a lawsuit on behalf of three obstetricians who are challenging whether or not the law is constitutional. They claim that the law violates state privacy protections (Salon).
Whether or not this law is ever allowed to go into effect, the fact that such a law had the support to pass should give citizens pause. This is a law that would inflict unimaginable hardship on women forced to carry to term a pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or women who could inflict harm on themselves and their unborn fetus because they suffer from severe mental illness. This law goes beyond restricting a woman’s right to choose; it inflicts horrific punishment on women, and lawmakers should not be permitted such an abuse of power.