In the 2012 Legislative Session, Georgia House Bill 954 (HB 954) sought to restrict abortions to 22 weeks from the Last Menstrual Period regardless of a woman’s medical circumstances. Read the update on the injunction at our Faces of Feminist blog.
The impacts of HB 954 are real and serious. HB 954 seeks to drastically sever a patient’s right to reproductive medical services. This bill is not based on science, sound medical practice or Constitutional law. The following is a brief list of what HB 954 will do if enacted:
- The bill seeks to have findings not based on medical research by the General Assembly put into law, including that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks.
- HB 954 redefines gestational age so that the length of a pregnancy is based on the number of weeks is dated from fertilization, not first day of last menstrual period (LMP). This is contrary to current medical standards of OB/GYN practices.
- HB 954 puts an arbitrary cutoff time on the ability to have an abortion at 20 weeks, despite the fact that case law has provided a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy up until viability which typically occurs at 24-26 weeks.
- The only exception to this rule is if the mother’s PHYSICAL health is endangered, and even then only in the event of potential “substantial and irreversible” damage. There is no exception for mental health.
- There is no exception for rape or incest.
- The only exception for fetal anomalies, despite the fact that many tests for fetal anomalies occur around 20 weeks, is for pregnancies diagnosed as “medically futile.” Because this is a vague and non-medical term, the law will thereby force a woman to carry a fetus to term which may have serious physical injuries or deformities or which may not have the ability to sustain life.
- If it is deemed that the woman’s life or serious physical functioning is at risk due to the pregnancy, the doctor may perform an abortion as long as he/she uses a method to do so that would allow the fetus the best chance to live outside of the womb. Since the pregnancies in question would be pre-viable, the likelihood that the fetus would survive is slim to none.
All doctors who attempt and/or perform abortions after 20 weeks must report to DCH how many procedures have been done and the probable gestational age of each fetus. Doctors found guilty of violating the new law will face criminal penalties including prison sentences between 1 and 10 years in prison. All this for practicing the best standards of care in medicine.
Spark Reproductive Justice NOW!
Women of color say NO to House Bill 954, the 20 Week Abortion Ban
House Bill 954 (HB 954), which would criminalize abortions in Georgia that are performed after 20 weeks, poses a dangerous threat to women in this state. The bill’s impact is particularly more acute and dangerous for women of color. As a woman of color reproductive justice organization, SPARK Reproductive Justice NOW believes it is vital to amplify the unique ways women of color will be impacted by this legislation. We urge elected officials to vote no on HB954 and stand in support of the autonomy, decision making, self-determination and power of women of color in Georgia.
Economic inequity forces many women of color to access abortion after 20 weeks.
- Although only 5% of abortions occur after 20 weeks1, women who access abortion after 20 weeks report lack of financial resources as one of the primary reasons. Low income women and women of color, who are severely impacted by economic inequity (Black women make 61 cents and Latina women 52 cents for every dollar made by white men)2, will be disproportionately impacted by a 20 week abortion ban due to persistent economic barriers that often limits resources to provide for healthcare. If passed, this bill will only exacerbate the racialized and gendered economic realities of women of color.
Women of color demand holistic, not piecemeal healthcare.
- Abortion is an essential component of holistic healthcare that women should have access to and should not be contingent upon medically uncorroborated timelines or any other conditions proposed by a law-making body that is severely detached from the realities and lived experiences of women of color. This bill continues the dangerous divide of abortion from basic healthcare provision. Women of color need and want reproductive healthcare to fully encompass our whole being; a personal decision to access health care should not decided by the Georgia General Assembly.
HB 954 is out of touch with the health concerns of women of color.
- We cannot know all the reasons a woman chooses to exercise her right to have an abortion; nor should we stigmatize and criminalize a woman’s decision to regulate her own body or appropriately plan her family. The bill advances a paternalistic tone, and assumes women, especially women of color, cannot make their own decisions, as evidenced by the fact that only one of the five bill sponsors is a woman and no one is a person of color.
HB 954 distracts elected officials from pressing issues such as the economy, access to quality education for all children, and affordable access to healthcare for all Georgians. Women of color support public policy that address institutional, structural, economic and political barriers that substantially improve the quality of our lives, our families, and our communities, not policies that take away our fundamental rights.