A Georgia state senate committee has voted in favor of a so-called "fetal pain" bill, a measure that would narrow the legal window during which women can legally obtain an abortion by six weeks. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, House Bill 954 would "tighten medical exemptions for terminating pregnancies and require any abortion performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy be done in a way to bring the fetus out alive."

The measure alleges that at 20 weeks a fetus is capable of feeling pain and therefore it must be protected by the state. Democrats, women's groups and medical professionals have lobbied hard to defeat the measure. Democratic legislators requested that the committee recount the votes by hand, a motion that committee chair Renee Unterman (R-Buford) overruled.

Any attempts to determine fetal gestational age will require a transvaginal ultrasound, the invasive procedure that featured prominently in a controversial Virginia anti-abortion law. Also, under the new law, physicians performing abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy can be charged with a felony and face up to a decade in prison.

Rep. Doug McKillip (R-Athens) sponsored HB 954, claiming it puts and end to "a barbaric practice," and that the bill is "not about politics," but rather a discussion of "when life begins."

Another abortion bill, HB 438 is also currently on the state senate's legislative agenda. The bill would prevent state employee health insurance plans from covering abortion services. It was this bill that spurred a group walk out by women legislators one month ago.

The bill was passed by the House on February 29. A date has not been set for a vote by the full Senate.