Georgia House passes 'heartbeat bill,' outlawing abortions after 6 weeks

Georgia Rep. Ed Setzler presents a bill to the Governmental Affairs Special Subcommittee on Voting Technology.
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Georgia Rep. Ed Setzler presents a bill to the Governmental Affairs Special Subcommittee on Voting Technology.

Credit: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Bob Andres/bandres@ajc.com/The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The Georgia House of Representatives on Friday approved HB 481, better known as the "heartbeat bill."

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The controversial bill outlaws abortion as soon as a doctor can detect a heartbeat in a fetus. Doctors say a heartbeat is typically detected when a fetus reaches six weeks' gestation.

Current Georgia law allows abortions up to 20 weeks.

The bill has sparked protests at the state Capitol since the House narrowly passed the original bill earlier this month. The state Senate made some changes and sent the bill back to the House for final approval.

More than 40 Hollywood celebrities signed a letter sent to Georgia House Speaker David Ralston and Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday morning, saying they will push TV and film production companies to abandon Georgia if the bill is signed into law.

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Republican state Rep. Ed Setzler, of Acworth, who sponsored the bill, said he is looking forward to taking the legislation across the finish line before the session adjourns on Tuesday.

Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign the legislation if it wins final passage. He vowed during his 2018 campaign to sign the strictest abortion laws in the country.

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“Georgia values life. We stand up for the innocent and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. The legislature’s bold action reaffirms our priorities and who we are as a state. I thank these lawmakers for their leadership and applaud their undeniable courage," Kemp said in a statement Friday. “Our efforts to protect life do not end here. We must work to ease the adoption process, find loving homes for those in our foster care system, and protect the aging and vulnerable. Together, we will ensure that all Georgians are safe and have the opportunity to live, grow, learn, and prosper.”

Explore>> Georgia Senate approves controversial abortion ‘heartbeat bill’

Georgia is poised to become the third state in as many weeks to pass similar legislation. A federal judge blocked Kentucky’s version of the law hours after it was signed by that state’s governor.

Officials with the American Civil Liberties Union have said the group will file a lawsuit if the measure wins final passage.

“Georgia has one of the worst maternal death rates in the nation. Black women in Georgia have a maternal death rate of more than three times the unacceptably high rate for white women,” said Andrea Young, Executive Director of the ACLU of Georgia. “This bill further erodes the health and well-being of Georgia’s women and reveals a callous disregard for their well-established Constitutional rights.”

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