On The Books: New Pro-Life Laws Go Into Effect July 1

The Georgia Right To Life (GRTL) legislative team worked tirelessly during the 2016 Legislative Session to see that pro-personhood bills were passed and that anti-life bills were stopped. The result of those efforts is that two new pieces of life-affirming legislation will go into law on July 1, 2016 in Georgia and protect thousands of women, children, disabled, and terminally ill patients.

The first measure on the books is Senate Science & Technology Committee Chairman Bruce Thompson’s SB 331, which was inspired by the stories of Georgia’s own Sarah Hughes and Rape Survivor Protection Act architect Shauna Prewitt. SB 331 places into law provisions that allow a woman who has conceived a child as a result of nonconsensual sexual intercourse to terminate or deny the parental rights of the man who assaulted her. This would protect women from being victimized a second time by their rapist, which could include coercing them to seek abortions for their children or even subjecting their children to abuse from their father – as was the case with our primary advocate, Sarah Hughes.

Senator Thompson expertly navigated the legislative process and ensured that a robust and widely protective piece of legislation passed that would ensure the protection of due process for men accused of rape while simultaneously placing harsh punishment on men found to have conceived a child as a result of nonconsensual sexual intercourse. The new law, which passed the House and Senate with only 1 “Nay” vote, will block the father’s ability to seek inheritance from the child, but leaves child support and inheritance as options for mother and child to pursue.

The second piece of legislation is Senate Health & Human Services (HHS) Committee Chairwoman Renee Unterman’s SB 305, which is a follow-up bill to 2015’s SB 109. SB 109 expanded the Department of Public Health’s (DPH) ability to use a standardized form that determines end of life care called the Physician’s Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (POLST). We worked on SB 109 to ensure that assisted suicide and euthanasia were not allowed through POLST forms in Georgia. SB 305 is a bill that requires DPH to notify the House and Senate HHS Committees 60 days prior to making any changes to the POLST form.

Senator Unterman’s intricate knowledge of the healthcare system in Georgia provided the necessary leadership to see SB 305 pass the House and Senate unanimously and ensure that no future administration at DPH could use the POLST form to allow medical practices that would violate the personhood rights of those at the end of life.

We will pursue legislation in 2017 that both complements as well as builds on these measures and continue to “move the ball down the field” with principled legislation as our ultimate goal to protect all innocent life with no exception.

These new laws, which were not signed by Governor Deal but will go into effect automatically due to his inaction, are valuable pieces of our efforts in Georgia to protect those who are vulnerable from a culture of death and advance personhood – the paramount right to life.

by Joshua Edmonds
Georgia Right to Life
Director of Education and Legislation