ATLANTA — While Georgia lawmakers failed to advance more attempts to restrict abortion access this legislative session, the state appears to be one of more than 20 states likely to limit or ban abortion completely if Roe v. Wade is canceled.
The US Supreme Court’s decision – expected by June – will weigh in on a Mississippi abortion clinic case, asking the court to strike down the state’s 15-week abortion ban. The state responded to the lawsuit by asking the Court to quash Roe v. Wade, a 1973 Supreme Court ruling protecting a woman’s decision to have an abortion.
If Roe v. Wade is overturned, Georgia’s ongoing ban on abortions beyond six weeks of pregnancy — except for rape or incest — will likely come into effect. Signed in 2019, this law is currently pending while being challenged in federal court for unconstitutionality.
“This law would still allow a woman to make a decision with her health care provider when you look at the life of the mother, the health of the mother which is an issue,” said Republican Senator Brian Strickland, who voted for the law in 2019. “That was the point where, from a policy standpoint, we kind of drew the line…looking at when a heartbeat is detected (about six weeks pregnant). At this point, unless you have a problem with the mother’s health or life”.
For now, abortions are still allowed up to 20 weeks in the state. Several states have already begun to attempt to limit and outright ban abortion amid Roe. v. Wade challenge.
Strickland, a lawmaker and attorney for 10 years, said he doesn’t anticipate Georgia banning abortion completely, saying discussions among state lawmakers in 2019 largely favored fetal heart rate as a determination of the right to life of the foetus.
“I’d be surprised if you saw that change. It seemed like where there was consensus at the time, but you know, it depends on what happens with the federal decision,” Strickland said. “We could have done something (in 2019) that was even more conservative in a sense, or we could have gone and been less restrictive, but that’s where we were at that point in 2019, where we have drawn the line and where we met on this bill.”
Although he believes the “heartbeat bill” was a reasonable approach to abortion access in Georgia, he said his colleagues could push for an outright ban, depending on the eventual decision of the Supreme Court.
“If we’re allowed to go in a different direction under the ruling, whether it’s something stricter or less strict than, you might see an effort to change that. But that seems to me, fair from my point of view , kind of being where we drew the line in Georgia,” he said.
During the state’s 2022 legislative session this year, Republicans tried to pass Senate Bill 456, a proposal to ban doctors sending abortion pills via telemedicine — a process which was made possible by the FDA when it changed rules that previously required patients to obtain the pills in person, before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Republican-dominated Senate voted in favor of the bill on March 1, but the bill did not make it to the House until the end of the April 4 session.
Proponents of the bill said in-person medical visits for an abortion should be mandatory for health and safety reasons, allowing the doctor to verify the pregnancy, diagnose ectopic pregnancies and provide intervention. surgery for incomplete abortion or severe bleeding, among other concerns. .
Those against the bill argued that sending the abortion pill posed no risk to patients and that the bill went too far in the medical field. Opponents say the bill would have restricted access to health care for women, especially low-income women who might face barriers to going to a clinic.
Data from the Guttmacher Institute shows that in 2020, medical abortion accounted for 54% of abortions in the United States. The FDA estimates that approximately 3.7 million women used mifepristone in the United States for the medical termination of pregnancy through the end of December 2018.
From September 2002 to December 2018, the FDA reports at least 24 deaths related to chemical abortion (mifepristone) and nearly 100 reported uses led to ectopic pregnancy. More than 1,000 of the 3.7 million led to hospitalization.
A Democratic-led motion in Georgia this year aims to defend Roe v. Wade and reproductive freedom. The bill states that this abortion helped reduce the maternal mortality rate in the state.
“Georgia ranks among the worst states for maternal mortality rates, and a 2021 study from Georgia State University found that, historically, access to legal abortion reduced black maternal mortality by 30 to 40%,” HR 669 said.
Georgia has more than a dozen facilities that offer abortions, many of them in the Atlanta area or other metropolitan areas. In 2017, 36,330 abortions were performed in Georgia, although not all abortions that occurred in Georgia were performed on state residents, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization.