March 29, 2019 / 9:01 PM / 6 months ago

Georgia lawmakers pass heartbeat abortion ban, joining four other U.S. states

(Reuters) - Georgia’s Republican-controlled legislature on Friday passed one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the United States, outlawing abortion if a doctor is able to detect a heartbeat.

FILE PHOTO - Gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp prepares to speak to volunteers and staff at his campaign office as they hold a phone banking event in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., November 5, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis

The state’s House of Representatives passed the bill with a 92-78 vote, sending it to Republican Governor Brian Kemp, who is expected to sign it into law. The state Senate previously passed the measure.

“Georgia values life. We stand up for the innocent and speak for those who cannot speak for themselves. The legislature’s bold action reaffirms our priorities and who we are as a state,” Kemp said in a Twitter post.

Shortly after the passage of the bill, the Democratic Party in Georgia said that it has started an initiative to recruit candidates to challenge Republicans who supported the legislation.

“Republicans have shown that they can’t be trusted to make decisions on behalf of Georgia women, Georgia’s healthcare system or Georgia’s economy,” said Nikema Williams, chair of the Democratic Party of Georgia said in a statement.

Georgia currently allows abortions up to 20 weeks into pregnancy.

Measures such as this one have been passed in Iowa, Kentucky, Mississippi and Tennessee over the past year. But judges in Iowa and Kentucky blocked similar laws earlier this month.

Activists on both sides of the issue say the laws are aimed at getting a case sent to the U.S. Supreme Court to challenge to Roe v. Wade, the court’s 1973 landmark decision, which said women have a constitutional right to an abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Georgia warned that it will sue if Kemp signs the bill.

“If ... Kemp signs this abortion ban bill into law, the ACLU has one message: we will see you in court,” Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, said in a statement.

Reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; editing by Bill Tarrant, Leslie Adler and G Crosse

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