Friday, April 6, 2012

At 11th Hour, Georgia Passes “Women as Livestock” Bill

After an emotional 14-hour workday that included fist-fights between lobbyists and a walk-out by women Democrats, the Georgia House passed a Senate-approved bill Thursday night that criminalizes abortion after 20 weeks.

The bill, which does not contain rape or incest exemptions, is expected to receive a signature from Republican Gov. Nathan Deal.

Commonly referred to as the “fetal pain bill” by Georgian Republicans and as the “women as livestock bill” by everyone else, HB 954 garnered national attention this month when state Rep. Terry England (R-Auburn) compared pregnant women carrying stillborn fetuses to the cows and pigs on his farm. According to Rep. England and his warped thought process, if farmers have to “deliver calves, dead or alive,” then a woman carrying a dead fetus, or one not expected to survive, should have to carry it to term.

The bill as first proposed outlawed all abortions after 20 weeks under all circumstances. After negotiations with the Senate, the House passed a revised HB 954 that makes an exemption for “medically futile” pregnancies or those in which the woman’s life or health is threatened.

If this makes its seem like Rep. England and the rest of the representatives looked beyond their cows and pigs and recognized women as capable, full-thinking human beings, think again: HB 954 excludes a woman’s “emotional or mental condition,” which means women suffering from mental illness would be forced to carry a pregnancy to term. It also ignores pregnant women who are suicidal and driven to inflict harm on themselves because of their unwanted pregnancy.

In order for a pregnancy to be considered “medically futile,” the fetus must be diagnosed with an irreversible chromosomal or congenital anomaly that is “incompatible with sustaining life after birth.” The Georgia “fetal pain” bill  also stipulates that the abortion must be performed in such a way that the fetus emerges alive. If doctors perform the abortion differently, they face felony charges and up to 10 years in prison. Given all this, the so-called compromise suddenly does not look like much of a bargain.

For anti-choice lawmakers, it is an item of faith that fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks. But scientists disagree. Reviews of all existing medical evidence have found that fetuses have not developed the neurological structures to feel pain until at least 25 weeks, and likely not until 28 weeks, in the third trimester.