'Heartbeat' Abortion Bill Passes Senate Committee Along Party, Gender Lines

Mar 18, 2019

The controversial bill that would prevent doctors from performing abortion once a heartbeat is detected passed out of committee Monday morning. 

Three Republican men voted for HB 481 and were greeted by a chorus of "Shame!" from dozens of protestors as they left the Science and Technology committee room. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) was also urged to "trust women" as he entered the Capitol this morning from women dressed in red cloaks like characters from the book and television series "The Handmaid's Tale."

The two Democrats on the committee, both women, voted against the bill. Sen. Valencia Seay (D-Riverdale) offered three amendments to the bill, which all failed. Two of them were aimed at removing language from the bill that would give personhood status and parental tax benefits once a heartbeat is detected. 

Sen. Renee Unterman (R-Buford) chairs the committee and did not vote. But she did author the committee substitute that was discussed and passed.

Speaking to Unterman and the committee, Setzler opposed all of the amendments, especially a proposal to revert the bill back to Georgia's current 20-week ban. 

"We follow science, we follow the dictates of common sense and practicality," Setzler said. "I think we recognize that we'd do well to support the heartbeat is the threshold and I would oppose the amendment."

But after the vote concluded, Seay expressed frustration at her male colleagues for supporting the measure, especially because none of them had experienced pregnancy firsthand.

"No man can give birth," she said. "So, I just do not appreciate consistently hearing 'common sense' as if I don't have common sense... I've got enough sense to bring this amendment to try to fix it to no avail."

The bill can now be added to the Senate rules calendar and make it to the floor as early as Thursday.