“Recently we’ve seen lawmakers in Virginia and New York advocate for on-demand abortion and even blatant infanticide. This is abhorrent. Medical providers are sworn to do no harm, and yet these policies would legalize the murder of newborn infants… that’s why I am cosponsoring H.R. 962 the Born-Alive Survivors Protection Act.” – Georgia Rep. Drew Ferguson (R)
With the recent passing of the new New York abortion law, there has been a successful legislative push to modify our Georgia law, which now permits abortion through 20 weeks (mid-second trimester). Our proposed law (HB 481) is clearly an overreaction, spurred on by Gov. Kemp’s campaign promise to have the “toughest abortion” law in the USA, supplanting Mississippi (a dubious honor).
HB 481 states that doctors must “determine the existence of a human heartbeat before performing an abortion,” which occurs at about six weeks, giving a woman less than two weeks to decide if she will have an abortion. And, since 30 percent of women have irregular menstrual cycles, it effectively eliminates choice.
I believe that misconceptions on the right about the New York law have driven this move locally versus any need to reduce abortions, which is happening on its own.
According to the Guttmacher Institute: “There was a 7 percent decline in the abortion rate in Georgia between 2011 and 2014, from 16.8 to 15.7 abortions per 1,000 women of reproductive age.”
There are already numerous abortion restrictions in Georgia. Only in case of life endangerment, rape, or incest does the government pay for abortions, and most women seeking any abortion are financially challenged. Further, the US has a much higher maternal mortality rate (13.3) versus other developed nations, and Georgia is the worst state with 20.5 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births (per Amnesty International), a statistic which will worsen if HB 481 is signed by the Governor.
I recently had a call from a close friend, a FOX watching conservative evangelical Baptist in rural Georgia, who has been very vocal to me over the years about any abortion being murder. A bright and good man, he filled my ears with what he said were facts about the New York abortion law permitting the arbitrary killing of newborns.
I was shocked, but afterwards I thought more about it. It would be strange that a state with such a heavily Catholic population (39 percent), including many of my very conservative and religious Catholic relatives, would pass such a law. So, I checked it out.
It turns out that the state of NY did no such thing. It is very clear from this language that any abortion taking place after 24 weeks will be done only when the fetus is dying/dead or when the mother’s life or health is endangered.
Here is the exact text of the NY law (2599-BB):
“A HEALTH CARE PRACTITIONER LICENSED… MAY PERFORM AN ABORTION WHEN, ACCORDING TO THE PRACTITIONER’S REASONABLE AND GOOD FAITH PROFESSIONAL JUDGMENT BASED ON THE FACTS OF THE PATIENT’S CASE: THE PATIENT IS WITHIN TWENTY-FOUR WEEKS FROM THE COMMENCEMENT OF PREGNANCY, OR THERE IS AN ABSENCE OF FETAL VIABILITY, OR THE ABORTION IS NECESSARY TO PROTECT THE PATIENT’S LIFE OR HEALTH.”
I worked extensively with the largest Catholic hospital systems in the United States. I consulted closely with the CEOs (usually nuns) running these systems, who were among the most progressive health care providers that I knew, with one exception, abortion. Faithful to their religion, they were all vocally against abortion on demand.
However, I’m not sure how they would feel about choosing the death of the mother versus the fetus. I never asked. It’s an excruciating moral dilemma, not something easily remedied via Ferguson’s HR 962, which is an obvious political ploy based on incorrect information generated to the American public by anti-abortion activists and their henchmen in the right-wing media. Further, it has zero chance of passing an increasingly liberal House, as Ferguson well knows.
But, the US rate of abortions is steadily going down, not up. Further, 91 percent are done before 13 weeks (CDC, 11-23-18). Full term is considered to be 38 to 42 weeks (MedLinePlus.gov).
There is no provision in the New York law to deliver a live viable baby and then perform “blatant infanticide.” That is murder under New York law. GOP Congressmen should have read the New York laws before proposing a politically motivated, divisive, unnecessary national law.
The ACLU will be bringing the Georgia law to the courts. The anti-choice forces are hoping that our activist, conservative SCOTUS will overturn Roe v Wade, decided in 1973.
GOP national leaders should be more aware of unintended consequences. And, GOP legislators here in Georgia should have thought twice before advocating such a draconian change in our state law. Women make up over half of our voters and removing their right to choose will come back to haunt you.