Georgia, Tennessee state houses pass heartbeat bills

Georgia heartbeat bill moves closer to passage
Photo Illustration/CNN

The state houses in Georgia and Tennessee approved controversial bills that would ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected.

In Georgia, the Republican-majority state house approved House Bill 481, called Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act, in a 93-73 vote. After the vote, cries of “Shame, Shame” filled the House as many abortion rights activists had come to oppose the bill.

In Tennessee, House Bill 77 passed in a 65-21 vote.

The bills would significantly curtail abortions, as it would ban them after a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can be found as early as six weeks into pregnancy. Many women don’t even know they are pregnant at that point.

In both states, women are allowed to undergo the procedure up to their 20th week of pregnancy. The bills would both prohibit abortions unless the pregnancy risks the life or poses substantial and irreversible physical harm to the pregnant woman.

The Georgia and Tennessee bills will head to their respective state senates — which have a Republican majority. Both states also have Republican governors who have signaled their support.

ACLU Tennessee slammed HB 77 as “dangerous” and “unconstitutional.”

“With our partners, we are working to stop this bill in the Senate. However, should it be signed into law, the ACLU of Tennessee and our client are prepared to file a lawsuit immediately,” said Hedy Weinberg, ACLU-Tennessee executive director in a statement.


Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp who calls himself “unapologetically pro-life” supports the fetal heartbeat bill and urged both the state house and senate to pass the bill in a short video statement posted to his Twitter account.

In it, he said: “This is a powerful moment in Georgia. It’s bigger than politics and partisanship. Let’s champion life today and ensure that all Georgians, including the unborn have a chance to live, grow and prosper.”

The bill’s author, state Rep. Ed Setzler, a Republican, said that abortion is a “barbaric procedure” and many other options exist for women including adoption and the Morning After pill.

Georgia’s Democrats opposed the bill and several came to the House with hangers and bleach, as a reference to the dangerous measures women have taken for self-induced abortions.

The Georgia fetal heartbeat bill is one of many that has been introduced in state legislatures across the country, including Florida, Kentucky, Missouri, Mississippi, Arkansas, Minnesota and Tennessee. No state has been able to put a heartbeat bill into lasting practice.

They typically get stuck in committees, vetoed by governors and nullified in courts. In January, an Iowa judge struck down that state’s fetal heartbeat bill, declaring it unconstitutional. The US Supreme Court has previously declined to weigh in after lower courts blocked bills in North Dakota and Arkansas.