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Two States Pass Bill to Ban Abortion After Heartbeat Detected

Georgia and Tennessee Houses pass 'heartbeat bills' banning most abortions

 on 10th March 2019 @ 4.00pm
georgia and tennessee houses pass bills banning abortions after heartbeats are detected © press
Georgia and Tennessee Houses pass bills banning abortions after heartbeats are detected

Georgia and Tennessee Houses both passed bills banning most abortions being performed in the states after a heartbeat is detected during pregnancy.

The two US states were the latest to move toward enacting tough abortion restrictions as Republican House lawmakers pass bans on most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

A fetal heartbeat can be detected via ultrasound as early as six weeks into the pregnancy.

Democratic opponents of so-called "heartbeat legislation" argue it goes against Roe v Wade, the Supreme Court ruling legalizing abortion, which many pro-life advocates hope will be overturned at the hands of the two new Justices.

The ruling is in stark contrast to many Democrat-controlled states which are pushing for later-term abortions.

Last month, the world reeled in horror as New York's Democratic Governor Andrew Cuomo signed new legislation into law that allows abortions to be performed up into the moment of birth.

democrats took coat hangers into the georgia house to protest the anti abortion bill © press
Democrats took coat hangers into the Georgia House to protest the anti-abortion bill

According to the Daily Mail, Georgia and Tennessee join other states, including Mississippi, Florida, Kentucky, Ohio and South Carolina, that are also considering this type of legislation.

The bills will next head to each state's respective Senate.

If they pass, the states' governors will have to sign them into law, as Georgia Governor Brian Kemp has said he intends to do.

During a tense debate in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday, several Democratic lawmakers opposed to the bill turned their backs to its author, Republican Representative Ed Setzler. 

Earlier in the day, some Democratic lawmakers brought in wire coat hangers in reference to unsafe home abortions.

Setzler said his bill "seeks to recognize that the child in the womb, that is living distinct from their mother, has a right to life that is worthy of legal protection."

The Tennessee House passed similar legislation earlier Thursday after its Republican supermajority forced an end to debate without letting some Democrats speak. 

If the measures in Georgia and Tennessee win Senate approval and are signed into law, they would trigger immediate legal challenges.

Abortion opponents across the country are hopeful the US Supreme Court - with new Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh - will either reverse Roe v Wade or uphold specific state laws that could undermine the court's 1973 ruling establishing the right of women to abort a fetus that can't survive outside the womb.

protesters gathered outside the tennessee house chamber to oppose the pro life bill © press
Protesters gathered outside the Tennessee House chamber to oppose the pro-life bill

Democratic Rep Renitta Shannon, speaking against the bill and about her own past abortion, went over time and her microphone was cut off.

She refused to yield the floor until colleagues surrounded her and implored her to walk away.

Women in Georgia can currently seek an abortion during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy.

A fetal heartbeat is generally detectable at around six weeks.

The bill would make exceptions in the case of rape and incest, but only when the woman files a police report first.

It also allows for abortions when the fetus is determined to be not compatible with life due to serious medical issues.

Setzler previously said he had "misgivings" about those exceptions, saying that "those children are just as innocent as others."

Republican Rep Darlene Taylor asked a rhetorical question: "Who speaks for a baby fetus?"

"Today I do," Taylor answered, as she read a prepared speech as if she was a baby fetus that did not want to be aborted.

Democratic Rep. Mike Wilensky said the bill clearly violates the constitution.

"We know that this bill is unconstitutional. We know that there are going to be huge costs to litigate this," Wilensky said.

The fast-tracked bill came to the floor in the final minutes before a legislative deadline by which bills must generally pass out of one house or the other to remain in play for the session.

Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who pledged as a candidate to sign the toughest abortion laws in the country, endorsed the proposal in a news conference after its passage in the House but said there is more work to be done in the Senate.

"I value life and I proudly support this legislation, which protects the right of the unborn at the heartbeat," Kemp said.

Republican Gov. Bill Lee has said he would sign the Tennessee bill, downplaying constitutional concerns as an issue for the courts, not his office.

Democrats and abortion-rights advocates say they'll continue to fight the bill for access to abortion in Georgia.

[RELATED] New York Legalizes Abortion Up Until Birth

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