Georgia's Gov. Deal signs 'fetal pain' bill

May 2, 2012 at 11:13 AM
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ATLANTA, May 2 (UPI) -- Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal approved new restrictions on late-term abortions performed in the state, signing a bill that generally bans abortions after 20 weeks.

Among other things, the law tightens medical exemptions for ending pregnancies and requires any abortion performed after 20 weeks be done in a manner to remove the fetus alive, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported Tuesday.

The law, which goes into effect Jan. 1, doesn't exempt rape or incest, saying a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks so the state has an interest in protecting it.

"Today, we are reaffirming Georgia's commitment to preserving the sanctity of all human life," Deal said in a statement. "This legislation provides humane protection to innocents capable of feeling pain while making an important exception for ... medically futile pregnancies."

The law included an exemption that gives doctors the option to perform an abortion past 20 weeks when a fetus has congenital or chromosomal defects and protects doctors from civil suits filed because of the legislation.

Doctors who perform abortions after 20 weeks that don't meet the law's mandates could face felony charges punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

Deal also signed into law a bill that would make assisting someone commit suicide a felony. The bill was passed after the state Supreme Court ruled the state's previous assisted-suicide law as unconstitutional.

The governor was prepared to sign into law Wednesday a bill that would reform the state's penal system, representing a first step in his long-term plan to reserve prison beds for the state's most violent criminals, the Journal-Constitution said.

Deal told the newspaper he will sign an executive order to continue a panel that studied the state's prison system and recommended changes to control soaring growth in prison spending.

"We didn't get everything we originally asked for, but we got the bulk of it," Deal said of the prison reform legislation. "We think it is a significant step in the right direction. ... We do think it's the right thing to do. We don't believe it jeopardizes the safety of Georgians. In fact, we believe it enhances it."

Reforms in the legislation are projected to save $264 million over the next five years.

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