NORCROSS, Georgia, May 1, 2012 (LifeSiteNews.com) - Governor Nathan Deal of Georgia today signed a law that protects preborn children capable of feeling pain, earning him praise from Georgia’s largest pro-life organization.

“I am deeply grateful that Governor Deal has demonstrated his commitment to protecting the preborn,” said Dan Becker, president of Georgia Right to Life. “By signing this measure, at least 1,500 babies a year will no longer be killed.”

Previously, Georgia allowed abortions for almost any reason throughout all nine months of pregnancy.

The new law, HB 954, was sponsored by Rep. Doug McKillip (District 115) and will take effect on January 1, 2013. It clearly establishes that Georgia has a “compelling state interest in protecting the lives of unborn children from the stage at which they are capable of feeling pain.”

That stage is now set at 20 weeks after gestation, which means no abortions can be performed after that, except in cases where it’s deemed necessary to save the life of the mother, or to end a “medically futile” pregnancy.

“While this new law represents significant progress in saving lives, a last-minute amendment that allows doctors to end so-called futile pregnancies is a first step to establishing a eugenic policy in Georgia,” Becker said. “It opens the door to destroying babies doctors think may be less than perfect.”

Noting that the proposal prompted a heated and emotional debate, Becker added: “I commend those legislators who honored the sanctity of life and did not abandon their principles.”

Georgia now joins six other states that have passed similar laws.