Docs, lawyers say ‘heartbeat bill’ could jeopardize rural, maternal healthcare in GA

Georgia News

The so-called “heartbeat bill” has been hotly debated in the Georgia legislature — but some are saying if passed, it could decrease the number of rural physicians in the state and jeopardize healthcare for all pregnant women.

Most people only know the takeaway from the heartbeat bill, that it would move the line for legal abortions from 20 weeks up to 6 weeks.  

But some argue it could send doctors to jail if they are believed to have aborted a pregnancy.

“This bill puts doctors in an impossible choice, choose to either treat their patient and optimize care of mother while knowing may endanger pregnancy or not treat due to danger of jail,” explained Dr. Tiffany Hailstorks, OB/GYN.

Dr. Hailstorks isn’t talking about terminating a pregnancy, but rather treating patients who have medical conditions and would want to carry their pregnancies to term. Those conditions, like seizures for example, might require medicines that typically should not be used during pregnancy.

Attorneys say that may scare away doctors from giving pregnant women the medicines they need because of those possible, accidental miscarriages — also known as spontaneous abortions.

The bill does build in “affirmative defense” for doctors, but it wouldn’t legally help until after being jailed and in the courtroom before a jury.

The doctors and lawyers News 3 spoke with all say this could create more of a healthcare crisis, particularly in rural Georgia.  

Already, half of the counties in the state do not have an OB/GYN.

News 3 will continue to follow House Bill 481, which is expected to be voted on in the Senate Friday.

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