6 lawmakers crossed party lines on final Georgia ‘heartbeat' bill vote

ATLANTA — The Georgia House of Representatives approved HB 481 on Friday, which is better known as the “Heartbeat Bill.”

The controversial bill outlaws most abortions as soon as a doctor can detect a heartbeat in a fetus. Doctors say a heartbeat is typically detected when a fetus reaches six weeks' gestation.

[READ: Georgia House passes 'Heartbeat Bill' outlawing most abortions after 6 weeks]

When the final votes were tallied, six state lawmakers crossed party lines to vote on the measure, which eked through the House by a 92-78 vote, according to Greg Bluestein, with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. 

The bill needed 91 votes to succeed. The Senate voted last week strictly on party lines to pass the measure.


Just like earlier this month, a single Democrat defied his party to support the measure: state Rep. Mack Jackson, a pastor from Sandersville. Democratic leaders have already vowed to back a primary challenger next year to oust him from office.

Five Republicans voted against the measure, including two who also opposed it earlier this month: State Reps. Deborah Silcox of Sandy Springs and Butch Parrish of Swainsboro. State Rep. Chuck Martin of Alpharetta also went against partly lines.

[READ: Major Hollywood celebs protest Georgia's anti-abortion bill]

State Rep. Sharon Cooper chairs the House Health Committee that initially approved the bill but voted against it Friday.

“It was a very hard decision for me, because I am pro-life. I trained in a Catholic hospital. One of my greatest joys was seeing triplets born. And so, it was a very hard decision,” Cooper said. “The bill is blatantly not constitutional.  And we do swear an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States. And there are many, many flaws with it.”

One GOP lawmaker, state Rep. Jay Powell, of Camilla, voted for the measure earlier this month but against it Friday.

The bill’s sponsor, Republican state Rep. Ed Setzler, of Acworth, said he doesn’t see any flaws in the bill.

[READ: Gov. Kemp backs 'heartbeat bill' restricting abortions]

“I think we’ve got an outcome that will stand the test of time. I think it will show well in the courts. I have no doubt there’ll be lawsuits,” Setzler said. “Basic right to life of the child, I think that became clear today to our members.”

Eight other lawmakers were excused: Republicans Dave Belton, of Buckhead; Gerald Greene, of Cuthbert; Brett Harrell, of Snellville; Jeff Jones, of Brunswick; Todd Jones, of Cumming; Dave Rutledge, of McDonough; and Ron Stephens, of Savannah. Democrat Mickey Stephens, of Savannah, was also absent.

Gov. Brian Kemp has until May 12 to sign the bill into law. Georgia is one of 18 states across the country voting on abortion laws this year.

Channel 2's Justin Wilfon and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution's Greg Bluestein contributed to this story.