The so-called Heartbeat Bill has been one of the most contentious bills in the Georgia legislature this year. That bill was held up in committee for hours of public testimony and faced a final few amendments this week.
The room was packed for this committee hearing — and the chair even made a point to say she would not accept any applause, hisses, or boos.
The basis of the bill is that the legal line for abortion would move from 20 weeks up to 6 weeks — that’s before many women even know they’re pregnant. One of the things a lot of OB/GYNs speaking out against the bill mentioned.
The science and technology committee usually has 4 members — two Republicans who happen to be men and two Democrats who are women. Before this meeting, Lieutenant Governor Geoff Duncan appointed another Republican member to the committee.
One Senator drafted three amendments to the bill – one removing the population count, one removing the tax credit, and one pushing the date back to 20 weeks as is current law. All three failed along party — and gender lines.
“One of the practical benefits of the bill, as proposed, is in recognizing the humanity of the unborn child. We’re giving the opportunity for mothers to seek child support at a certain level of pregnancy and a tax deduction,” said Rep. Ed Setzler.
“My heart is heavy, I’ve made every attempt to rectify to this non-common sense approach to a woman’s right to do what she does and that is give birth. I do not appreciate consistently hearing ‘common sense’ as if I don’t have common sense. I’ve got enough sense to bring this amendment to try to fix it to no avail,” said Sen. Valencia Seay.
The bill does more than significantly move up the number of weeks that abortion would be legal: it establishes the concept of fetuses as people, setting a “personhood” standard. It would also count fetuses, not yet born in population measures like the census and and give a tax credit for fetuses with a heartbeat.
“Our 20 week law was the wise action of a legislature in 2012. I think as we follow science, we follow the dictates of common sense and practicality, I think we recognize that we do well to support the heartbeat as the threshold,” said Rep. Ed Setzler.
“Every woman who wants to give birth and those who find themselves in a situation with rape and incest… no man, which the three of my colleagues are all men, are saying common sense when common sense comes from us who have delivered, who have given birth and who respect women making a choice for themselves,” said Sen. Valencia Seay.
One senator tried to amend the bill by removing the fetus counting for a tax credit.
“Moving this from a practical standpoint as well, this amendment will hurt women and families because when you’re looking at bringing a new child into the world, there are expenses that accrue during the pregnancy and afterward and we need to help families as much as we can,” said Sen. William Ligon.
A similar heartbeat bill in Kentucky was overturned by a federal judge last week. Legal analysts say the legislators and the governor know that the bill will likely be struck on a federal level, but that their goal is to possibly make it to the Supreme Court in an effort to overturn Roe V. Wade, now that the bench is largely conservative.