The heartlessness of Ga. anti-abortion bill

NOTE: This is published as the electronic version of today’s AJC column. Portions of this post have appeared earlier on this blog.

Imagine being a happily pregnant couple, 20 weeks along, when things go tragically amiss. Tests reveal that if carried to term, your child will be born without a skull, or perhaps without functioning lungs, which means that upon birth it will begin to die immediately of asphyxiation, with no hope of saving it.

Do you continue the pregnancy, knowing that the child has no chance of survival and that in many cases its “life” will at best consist of a few short hours of intense agony? Or do you end the pregnancy in the best interests of all involved, including that of the doomed fetus?

Some parents, drawing upon their faith and moral precepts, will continue the pregnancy to its tragic end. Others, drawing on their own equally sincere principles, will intervene. It is not a choice that any of us would want to make, and under House Bill 954, approved this week by a House committee, we would not have to. Because if the bill passes, as seems likely, Georgia legislators will have made that decision for every mother in the state.

Under the bill, the legal window in which abortions can be performed in Georgia would shrink from 26 to 20 weeks. Supporters justify the change by claiming that after 20 weeks, fetuses are capable of feeling pain and thus need to be protected, regardless of viability.

There are two major problems here:

1. That legislative threshold of 20 weeks contradicts the overwhelming consensus of the scientific and medical community, which holds that as a fetus develops, the neural connections needed to feel pain do not occur until 28 or 29 weeks. The pain argument is being used to advance an agenda, not to respond to science.
2. The change will do nothing to affect the vast majority of abortions, which is the real target of its sponsors. According to the Guttmacher Institute, 89 percent of abortions are performed in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, long before the proposed law would take effect.

Many of the small fraction of abortions that occur after the proposed 20-week deadline involve what are called “medically futile pregnancies” such as those described above.

As a prominent Atlanta obstetrician told me this week, consider a woman who at 20 weeks discovers that her fetus suffers from anencephaly, which means it’s missing part of its head. The goal of his practice is to see high-risk pregnancies through to a healthy, successful live birth, but sometimes that just isn’t possible.

“The fetus has no skull,” he explained. “I don’t think many of us walk around without a skull. It is not going to survive no matter what you do. We tell the mother what we found, and we let her go through full counseling, grief counseling. And at the end of that, we give her the option of carrying that pregnancy or not.”

Under HB 954, that option would no longer be available.
That fetus will be carried to full term, under the false excuse of sparing it pain, and the result will be a baby “condemned to writhe in agony” as it dies shortly after birth.

(As a condition of the interview, the doctor asked not to be named. He has been advised not to speak publicly out of fear for his personal safety and threats of economic boycott.)

The bill is also certain to force abortions that otherwise will not have occurred, he said.

“I saw a couple at 21 or 22 weeks. They didn’t have health insurance until then because he was transferring jobs, so they hadn’t had the screening. When they came to see me, they were distraught. The fetus had a heart defect, what turned out to have been a fixable heart defect. But we didn’t know that for sure. We had to go through amniocentesis, which takes a week. That brings us up to 22 and a half weeks. Then we had to counsel this family and convince them that this heart defect was fixable. Because we had the time, we were able to walk them through the process and they didn’t terminate.

“If I had seen them at 19 weeks and four days, and this new law gave them just three days to decide, they would have terminated that pregnancy. We told the Legislature that, but these legislators think that’s not going to happen.

“It’s going to happen.”

In more than five hours of hearings this month, legislators have been made aware of these consequences, but they made no substantive changes to the bill.

“From my standpoint, if they wanted to cut off elective terminations — the woman who just decides at 22 weeks, I don’t want this baby — I could live with that,” the doctor told me. “But let the woman who has a complication make rational decisions.”

– Jay Bookman

709 comments Add your comment


February 29th, 2012
10:02 pm

Could this be the next step for pro-abortion liberals?

Also medical professionals have recognised the need for guidelines about cases in which death seems to be in the best interest of the child. In The Netherlands, for instance, the Groningen Protocol (2002) allows to actively terminate the life of ‘infants with a hopeless prognosis who experience what parents and medical experts deem to be unbearable suffering’.4

Although it is reasonable to predict that living with a very severe condition is against the best interest of the newborn, it is hard to find definitive arguments to the effect that life with certain pathologies is not worth living, even when those pathologies would constitute acceptable reasons for abortion. It might be maintained that ‘even allowing for the more optimistic assessments of the potential of Down’s syndrome children, this potential cannot be said to be equal to that of a normal child’.3 But, in fact, people with Down’s syndrome, as well as people affected by many other severe disabilities, are often reported to be happy.5

Nonetheless, to bring up such children might be an unbearable burden on the family and on society as a whole, when the state economically provides for their care. On these grounds, the fact that a fetus has the potential to become a person who will have an (at least) acceptable life is no reason for prohibiting abortion. Therefore, we argue that, when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.


February 29th, 2012
10:14 pm



Obama is not transforming the country. Any transforming must have occured in some dream you had. it’s not reality, dude. It’s your fantasy.


February 29th, 2012
10:16 pm



Nobody is pro-abortion. Pro-abortion would mean being in favor of abortions. Nobody wants an abortion to occur.
But, who are you to deny someone the right to have one if it is necessary and although not wanted, the best alternative.


February 29th, 2012
10:43 pm

Who will define what is and is not an acceptable life?

On these grounds, the fact that a fetus has the potential to become a person who will have an (at least) acceptable life is no reason for prohibiting abortion. Therefore, we argue that, when circumstances occur after birth such that they would have justified abortion, what we call after-birth abortion should be permissible.

Be careful what you ask for, Otis.


February 29th, 2012
10:58 pm


“it is hard to find definitive arguments to the effect that life with certain pathologies is not worth living, “

Um, here’s one Sparky: THE FETUS HAS NO (insert vital organ) AND HAS NO CHANCE OF SURVIVAL OUTSIDE THE WOMB.

Re: the rest of your assertions, you have it all wrong. It’s not about the big picture. It’s not about “society as a whole” or economics. It’s about LEGISLATORS sticking their noses into the **literal** LIFE and DEATH decisions made by a woman and her doctor when her WORST fears have come true! This bill isn’t about mythical day-spa clinics where you can get highlights while you wait your turn and a mani-pedi while you’re recovering from an abortion of convenience!

This bill is about using state LAW to force ONE woman to carry a fetus inside her for two, three, or four more months when that fetus has NO CHANCE OF SURVIVAL outside the womb, in a most rare and unusual circumstance. It’s about forcing ONE woman to forfeit her own life, or her own fertility and the future of the family she and her husband hoped to have, because a legislator she’s never met thinks fetuses feel pain at 20 weeks. It’s about coming between ONE woman and her doctor, negating all claims to being an agent of freedom or smaller government.

And that ONE woman is ALL OF US, because it could be ANY of us.

This bill has one purpose, and one purpose only, and it has nothing whatsoever to do with mercy, love, freedom, or doing what’s right.


March 1st, 2012
12:35 am

Republican Politicians just love the anti choice group, every time they’re needed they call them out. The anti choice groups fall for it every time. They don’t get it, the politicians don’t care about the babies they never have, it’s to get the sheep to follow. Just like, GOD, GAYS and GUNS. If these politicians really cared about the babies, they would pass legislation to take care of them. Have these republican politicians EVER voted in favor of giving more to those in need? Nope, not unless their out voted.
I’m writing down all these legislator’s names, state and those in Washington and I hope when it comes to election time those who are offended, men and women, by the way these republican men are trying to dictate what woman can and can’t have in the way of birth control, health-care and abortions, if needed, will put your mark on anyone BUT an INCUMBMENT. If the new voted in Politician is of a like mind as these idiots, then they too will be voted out of office.
Enough is enough on this woman hating/bashing. The Republican Politician Male or if any Republican women in the Dome are dumb enough to vote like her fellow fools, then so be it, the War has started! What’s good for the Goose is Good for the Gander! Write down their names for your district, State Representative, Senator and take it with you come election day. If they aren’t up for re-election vote them out at the next election, just don’t forget their names. We have the votes fellow Georgian Women, vote these ding dongs out, they aren’t fit for public office. If not registered, go register now, and VOTE come election time.

Joe Hussein Mama

March 1st, 2012
9:27 am

Doom — “Well of course. Therefore seeing as how a fetus 8 3/4 months into pregnancy is not a human because it is still totally dependent on its mother we should go ahead and amend the abortion law to where we can just start aborting them right up until when a woman goes into labor. Such is the twisted logic of the kook left.”

No, such is your dishonest misrepresentation of what others are saying.


March 1st, 2012
11:25 am

The result of an alliance of misogonistic males, self-hating females and opportunistic politicians. Let’s throw red meat to the rabble rather than tangle with meaningless issues like improving education. My gosh that requires money and gets the home-schooling retards riled up.

Pam Avery

March 1st, 2012
3:46 pm

Well, now we know this bill passed…and why? Because the sponsors and the folks who voted for it want to be elected again…this is pathetic. This will come back to haunt those who voted for it – just wait and see.