ATLANTA - Georgia state senators have voted to approve House Bill 481, the so-called Heartbeat Bill, a controversial measure that would ban abortions after six weeks.
The vote came after hours of debate and with dozens of demonstrators in the halls of the state Capitol, WSB-TV reported.
The Heartbeat Bill passed Monday out of a Senate committee. On Thursday, it passed a final committee.
The bill later went to the floor of the Senate, where senators ultimately voted in favor.
Outside the Capitol on Friday, dozens of Georgia State Patrol and other police cruisers were lined up.
"I can't recall the last time I saw this many (police vehicles) at the Capitol," WSB-TV reporter Dave Huddleston said.
Pro-choice supporters showed up wearing costumes from the TV show “A Handmaid’s Tale.” Anti-abortion supporters wore white and carried signs.
Americus Sen. Greg Kirk defended the bill: "Many of the abortions done today are done so as a form of birth control and convenience."
The law would ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That’s usually about six weeks into a pregnancy, instead of the 20 weeks under current Georgia law.
There is an exception to the bill: if the pregnancy endangers a woman’s life.
Doctors who perform an abortion after detecting a fetal heartbeat could lose their medical licenses.
Stone Mountain Democrat Gloria Butler argued that the bill would take away a woman’s constitutional right: "We’ve seen the chipping away at our constitutional rights over and over of our own bodies and now, here we go again."
Buford Republican Renee Unterman sponsored the bill in the Senate.
She said the bill makes unborn children legal citizens of Georgia and gives them rights while still in the womb.
“The bill defines that a natural person, a natural person is any human being including an unborn child,” Unterman said.
Atlanta Democrat Nikema Williams argued that the abortion issue shouldn’t be a partisan one.
“It’s not just Democrats. It’s not just people that live in Atlanta. Those are people that all of you know," Williams said.
The bill now goes back to the House.
Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to sign the legislation if it wins final passage, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. Kemp released a statement after Friday’s vote that said, in part, that he “affirmed Georgia’s commitment to life.”