Georgia Governor Nathan Deal [official website] on Tuesday signed two pieces of legislation [press release] barring late-term abortions [JURIST backgrounder] and assisted suicide [JURIST news archive], respectively. HB 954 [materials] bans most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, based on studies suggesting a fetus can begin to feel pain at that point in development. It creates exceptions for when the mother's life is in danger or when the fetus has extreme defects which make survival unlikely. Upon signing the legislation, Deal said, "Today, we are reaffirming Georgia's commitment to preserving the sanctity of all human life. This legislation provides humane protection to innocents capable of feeling pain, while making an important exception for in the case of medically futile pregnancies." HB 1114 [materials] makes it a felony to assist in another person's suicide. It was approved after the Georgia Supreme Court in early February struck down [JURIST reports] a 1994 law that banned publicly advertising suicide assistance. Some scholars have argued that the bill was passed too hastily and lacks patient safeguards [JURIST op-ed].
Georgia joins several other states that restrict late-term abortions based on the notion of fetal pain, including Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Arizona [JURIST reports]. Georgia law already prohibited most abortions after the third trimester. Several state legislatures have acted recently to implement waiting periods before abortions or to require ultrasound procedures.