The Georgia House of Representatives [official website] on Thursday approved legislation [HB 954] banning late-term abortions [JURIST news archive]. The bill, passed in a vote of 102-65, would prohibit most abortions performed beyond five months of pregnancy except in situations where continued pregnancy would affect the life or health of the mother. The legislation is premised on the controversial notion that a fetus begins to feel pain [AP report] at approximately 20 weeks of gestation. Opponents of the legislation argue that such a law would disproportionately affect poor women who could not afford to travel out of state to receive abortion services. Representative Sharon Cooper (R) [official profile] expressed concern that women would be forced to carry a badly damaged fetus that has no chance of surviving outside of the womb to term. In voicing her opposition to the bill, Cooper, a nurse, said that "[m]aking a mother carry that child to term is cruel and inhumane punishment." HB 954 goes to the Georgia State Senate [official website], and, if it passes there, Georgia would become the sixth state to impose such an abortion restrictions based on the notion that a fetus can feel pain.
Laws restricting access to abortions have been passed in other states recently. In August 2011, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] filed a lawsuit [JURIST report] challenging a Kansas law [HB 2075 materials] that prohibits insurance companies from including coverage for abortion in their comprehensive plans. In July 2011, a judge for the US District Court for the District of Kansas [official website] issued a preliminary injunction [JURIST report] to block a regulation [SB 36 materials] requiring clinics within the state to obtain a license to perform abortions. In April 2011, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback (R) [official website] signed two pieces of legislation [JURIST report] restricting abortions in the state. The Abortion Reporting Accuracy and Parental Rights Act [HB 2035, PDF] requires unemancipated minors to obtain notarized parental signatures before an abortion may be performed, and the "fetal pain bill" [HB 2218, PDF] restricts abortions beyond 22 weeks of pregnancy based on the belief that a fetus can feel pain at that stage of gestation.