March 7 (UPI) -- A bill that would make abortion illegal in cases where a doctor can detect a fetal heartbeat has passed a key House committee in Georgia after heated testimony.
House Bill 481, also known as the "heartbeat law," was sent to the full House after committee approval Wednesday. It's now expected to pass both the House and Senate and approval from Gov. Brian Kemp -- which would make it one of the most restrictive abortion bills in the United States.
Though the proposal is receiving legislative approval, it is not popular among women's rights advocates.
"I believe in the common sense of Georgians," State Rep. Ed Setzler told the House committee. "They recognize that science tells us a living, distinct whole human being with a heartbeat living in the womb is worthy of protection."
Testimony in the committee became heated Wednesday, leading Democratic State Rep. Kim Schofield to ask Setzler, "How many times have you actually carried a baby?" He answered by talking about his wife's experience with pregnancy, which he said included miscarriages.
Dr. Melissa Kottke, who's on the advisory board of Georgia's OB-GYN Society, told the Georgia committee Wednesday such a law could drive physicians from the state.
"It's extremely dangerous for lawmakers to presume that they're better equipped than women and their health care providers to judge what is appropriate medical care," she said.
Abortion-rights advocates say "heartbeat bills" only permit abortions for a short period time when most women don't even know they're pregnant. Challenges on the issue could end up in the U.S. Supreme Court, where justices legalized abortion in the landmark 1973 case Roe vs. Wade -- a ruling long targeted by conservatives. Some now hope there's a chance at overturning the decision with President Donald Trump putting justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch on the high court bench.
Georgia's law is similar to one passed in Iowa last year that was also called the "heartbeat law." It won legislative approval but was struck down by a state court in January, which said it conflicted with Iowa's constitution.