ATLANTA - A bill that would create a 24-hour waiting period before women could have an abortion cleared a Senate committee Monday, over the objections of Democrats and abortion-rights activists.
The vote paves the way for the Woman's Right to Know Act to be debated by the full Senate, where Republicans hold a majority and have announced plans to support it. Leaders in the Democrat-controlled House say they have no intention of considering the bill, which they call a sop to religious fundamentalists, if it reaches that chamber.
Sponsored by Sen. Don Cheeks, R-Augusta, the bill cleared the Senate's Health and Human Services committee by a party line vote of 7-4.
It would require women to visit their doctor 24 hours before the procedure and receive detailed information about the possible risks of abortions. It would also require that printed materials, including pictures of fetuses at various stages of development, be offered to the women.
Anti-abortion activists told senators Monday that the bill would give women important facts about the possible dangers of abortion, including a possible link to an increased rate of breast cancer.
Becky Turner, of Dacula,Ga., compared the idea to the nutritional information that federal law requires on food.
"(Nutrition information) is nothing compared to the life-changing decision that is made when women choose to have an abortion," said Ms. Turner, who said she had an abortion in 1987 but might have reconsidered with more time to think. "They do it with tuna. Why wouldn't they do it with my own life?"
Abortion-rights groups argued that Georgia law already requires doctors to give women complete information before performing abortions. They said the waiting period would cause some women to wait days or weeks, because of limited availability of doctors who perform abortions, and could cause early-term abortions to becoming costlier, and more dangerous, second-trimester abortions.
They said the law also is insensitive to women by suggesting they don't already consider all their options before having an abortion.
"It is not proper to legislate as if women do not stop and think before making this important decision," said Elizabeth Appley, the director of Planned Parenthood of Georgia.
The bill would require women to be given information about alternative pregnancy care groups, including adoption agencies, in the area. With dozens of activists on both sides of the issue crammed into a Capitol meeting room, Democrats on the committee attempted to delay a vote.
Reach Doug Gross at (404) 589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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