Originally created 05/11/05

State's abortion law gets new restrictions



ATLANTA - Women wanting an abortion in Georgia will now have to wait 24 hours after a physician's consultation, under the Woman's Right to Know Act that Gov. Sonny Perdue signed into law Tuesday.

The law, which goes into effect immediately, requires physicians to talk with a candidate for abortion about medical risks associated with the procedure, the risks of carrying the unborn child to term, and the age of the fetus.

"The Woman's Right to Know is a common-sense approach to a sensitive issue," said Mr. Perdue, who signed the bill flanked by past and present legislators who have pushed for the changes and by abortion opponents. "It gives us the proper respect and value for all life."

Supporters for adding restrictions to the state's abortion laws have been trying to get similar bills passed for more than a decade. But the measures never made it to a full vote until this year, when Republicans took over control of the Legislature.

"It was a difficult bill to usher through," said Rep. Sue Burmeister, R-Augusta, who initially sponsored the bill this year. "We put some legislation into law that actually provides for some other means rather than abortion."

Ms. Burmeister predicts the new law will curb the number of abortions in the state.

In 2003, the most recent year statewide statistics are available, about 34,500 abortions were performed, according to the Georgia Division of Public Health.

The legislation drew bipartisan support in both chambers. It passed 139-35 in the House and 41-10 in the Senate.

"It's definitely a victory for the women of Georgia," said Sadie Fields, the president of the Christian Coalition of Georgia.

But Becky Rafter, the executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia, said state reproductive-health and justice groups were appalled by the law's signing. She said she had problems with the legislation because no exceptions were included for rape or incest victims and said it would create barriers for women seeking abortions, particularly those from low-income and rural areas.

Reach Vicky Eckenrode at (404) 589-8424 or vicky.eckenrode@morris.com.

ABORTION LAW CHANGES

Gov. Sonny Perdue signed the Woman's Right to Know Act into law Tuesday. The changes include:

- The physician performing the abortion must tell the woman in person or over the phone about medical risks associated with the procedure to the individual patient, the fetus' probable gestational age and medical risks associated with carrying the unborn child to term.

- The woman also hears about medical-assistance benefits available for prenatal care, childbirth and neonatal care, legal responsibilities of the father and that there are state Web sites that describe the unborn child, agencies offering alternatives to abortion and information on fetal pain.

- A woman seeking an abortion has to wait at least 24 hours after talking with the physician before undergoing the procedure.

- Unemancipated minors have to be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Previously, another adult could fulfill the notification requirement.

- The minor can obtain a court order waiving the parental requirement if the court finds that she is well enough informed to make the decision or that notifying a parent or legal guardian would not be in the minor's best interest.

- Morris News Service