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Friday, March 04, 2005

CBS 46 Atlanta - Abortion waiting period approved by Senate, heads to governor

CBS 46 Atlanta - Abortion waiting period approved by Senate, heads to governor

Georgia Legislature
Abortion waiting period approved by Senate, heads to governor
Mar 4, 2005, 11:44 AM

ATLANTA (AP) -- A 24-hour waiting period for women seeking abortions was approved by the state Senate on Friday, sending the measure to the desk of Gov. Sonny Perdue.

The bill, which already passed the House, also tightens parental notification requirements for minors. Parents would have to be notified either by telephone or in person before a minor could have an abortion.

Backers promoted the plan as a compromise that delivers a longtime key issue for social conservatives in the Republican-dominated Legislature while making some concessions to abortion rights advocates.

"Of course there are people on both sides, pro-life and pro-choice," said Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford, the plan's sponsor in the Senate. "But when it comes down to it, there's not a whole lot of dissension about talking about women's health care and what is in the best interest of women."

The bill passed 41-10 after about 30 minutes of debate -- a sharp contrast to the two hours of emotional discussion in the House last week.

Some of the bill's more controversial aspects were removed in the House. It originally required doctors to tell women about a link between abortions and breast cancer -- although most doctors say the link doesn't exist.

A provision allowing a woman's sexual partner or parents to sue abortion doctors for malpractice was also removed.

In its final form, the plan requires a woman seeking an abortion to make contact in person or on the telephone with the doctor's office at least one day before the procedure. They would receive a booklet of information on abortion, instead of the in-person lecture that originally would have been required.

Still, some Senate Democrats argued that the bill is not necessary to police a procedure that most women already consider carefully.

"We are telling the women of this state that they can not take care of themselves, that they can't decide for themselves what to do with their bodies," said Sen. Gloria Butler, D-Atlanta. "I don't think we need to be in the business of telling them they are not smart enough to do that."

Opponents also complained that they were not allowed to present an amendment that would have exempted victims of rape or incest from the waiting period. Backers used a legislative procedure that prevented the bill from being amended on the Senate floor.

Unterman said the procedure prevented amendments supported by both anti-abortion and abortion rights activists. She defended the waiting period for rape and incest victims.

"If anyone ever needed more counseling and more help ... I believe it's going to be a woman who has been through that traumatic experience," she said.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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