House passes controversial 'heartbeat' abortion bill

ATLANTA — Tensions were high at the state Capitol as lawmakers fought over a controversial bill that would ban most abortions at six weeks. Some Democrats stood up and walked out before the bill was introduced.

Just before 11 p.m. Thursday night, the bill passed the House 93-73.

Gov. Brian Kemp gave a statement at the Capitol shortly after the bill was passed.

"This is a huge step but we have more work to do in the Senate and I look forward to working with them to get where I can sign this legislation," he said.

In a remarkable show of defiance, House Democrats turned their backs on the Acworth lawmaker sponsoring the so-called heartbeat bill before it was introduced.

House Speaker David Ralston reprimanded them.

"I guess we have people in violation of the rules of the House. The gentleman will proceed, and this will be dealt with later," he said.

Acworth lawmaker Ed Setzler did continue, explaining why he believes Georgia should ban abortion after six weeks, instead of 20 weeks, as under current law.


"It seeks to recognize that the child in the womb that is living distinct from their mother has a right of life that is worthy of protection," Seltzer said.

But even as Setzler spoke, some Democrats walked off the floor.

House Bill 481, which would ban abortions once a doctor can detect a heartbeat in the fetus.

A second piece of legislation that Kemp backed, House Bill 546, was tabled by the same committee that approved House Bill 481, dimming its prospects. It would create a "trigger law" that would ask lawmakers to vote to ban abortions in Georgia if the U.S. Supreme Court overturns the Roe v. Wade decision that determined a woman had a right to seek the procedure.

Channel 2's Richard Elliot spoke with some of the Democrats who walked off the floor.

"There’s an overwhelming majority, so they are not listening to people. It’s not just us," said state Rep. Bee Nguyen (D-Atlanta).

"But I’d like to add that we do not do this to men, so this is about not trusting women. We don’t do this to men. We don’t pass condescending bills, and that’s what this is," said state Rep. Renitta Shannon (D-Decatur).

Democrats took to the well to oppose the bill. Many Republicans took to the well, too, to voice their support.

"Baby fetus deserves to have a future and to have a life. Baby fetus deserves to have a life," said state Rep. Darlene Taylor (R-Thomasville).