A Democratic lawmaker in Georgia is responding to a Republican-backed effort to prevent women from receiving abortions 20 weeks after fertilization with a tongue-in-cheek measure that seeks to limit men’s health care choices: legislation that “would limit vasectomies only to men who will die or suffer dangerous health problems without one.” “Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies,” said Rep. Yasmin Neal (D) explained. “It is patently unfair that men can avoid unwanted fatherhood by presuming that their judgment over such matters is more valid than the judgment of the General Assembly, while women’s ability to decide is constantly up for debate throughout the United States.”
The anti-abortion bill (HB 954), offered by Rep. Doug McKillip (R), “would effectively outlaw abortion 20 weeks after an egg is fertilized, the point where the lawmaker said fetuses can feel pain,” but would allow for exceptions in cases where a pregnancy threatens the life or health of the women. The bill also does not include exemptions for rape or incest and stipulates that doctors “performing abortions without the justifications the bill requires would be subject to a prison sentence of one to 10 years.”
Fourteen states have imposed prohibitions on abortions after a certain number of weeks, generally 24, and 6 of these states ban abortion at 20 weeks on the grounds that the fetus can feel pain at that point in gestation — a claim disputed by doctors:
Doctors’ groups and other experts testified during a committee hearing that establishing a 20-week rule could force prospective parents to make a decision on ending pregnancies before having all the information available from genetic tests that can reveal whether a fetus has severe physical problems.
“People could be making decisions on information that is not definitive,” said Dan Wiesman, a certified genetic counselor at Emory Healthcare.
The concept of “fetal pain” is widely panned by many in the medical field, with the Journal of the American Medical Association determining that “pain perception probably does not function before the third trimester.” So discredited is the concept of fetal pain that even a Kansas Republican slammed the “false research,” adding “I would be embarrassed to be a state that bases its laws on untruths.”
Under current Georgia law, women can have abortions until 26 weeks after fertilization. Beyond that point, the procedure can only be performed “if three physicians agree that the woman needs it for medical reasons that can include mental health issues.”
“The Republican attack on women’s reproductive rights is unconscionable. What is more deplorable is the hypocrisy of HB 954’s author,” House Democratic Leader Stacey Abrams (D) said. “If we follow his logic, we believe it is the obligation of this General Assembly to assert an equally invasive state interest in the reproductive habits of men and substitute the will of the government over the will of adult men.”