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ATLANTA, March 26, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – The Georgia Senate passed legislation Friday to ban abortion on most babies once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, albeit with more exceptions than the version originally introduced in the state House.

House Bill 481’s original language states that “no abortion is authorized or shall be performed if the unborn child has been determined to have a human heartbeat,” except to save a mother from death or “serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function,” or if the pregnancy has been deemed “medically futile” (i.e., the child would die shortly after birth). The bill specifies that mental or emotional conditions do not qualify.

Earlier this month, Georgia Right to Life president Ricardo Davis called the measure, which was introduced alongside a trigger bill to automatically ban most abortions once Roe v. Wade is overturned, a “hopeful step toward the ultimate goal of adopting a ‘personhood’ amendment to the state constitution that will protect all innocent human life from fertilization through natural death.”

The measure passed the House 93-73 earlier this month, and a version passed the Senate on a 34-18, party-line vote Friday. The vote followed four hours of contentious debate, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

“I applaud the members who supported the heartbeat bill’s passage for protecting the vulnerable and giving a voice to those who cannot yet speak for themselves,” Republican Gov. Brian Kemp said. But despite Kemp’s campaign-trail pledge to enact the “toughest abortion laws in the country,” the Senate version is notably weaker than both the original House version and the heartbeat laws of other states.

In addition to the “medically futile” exception that was present in both versions, the Senate added exceptions for women pregnant due to rape or incest, provided they file a police report. Other heartbeat laws typically make exceptions only for physical medical emergencies.

In response, left-wing actress Alyssa Milano called on her fellow abortion advocates to boycott Georgia for “vot(ing) to strip women of their bodily autonomy.” But of greater concern is the debate between pro-lifers over the law’s details.

Though the bill “contains exceptions in the case of rape, threatened death of the mother, or a medically futile diagnosis, all of which are exceptions that we would prefer were not permitted,” the Georgia Catholic Conference says it ultimately “recommend(s) support because it would prohibit many abortions that are legal today.”

Last week, Personhood Alliance president Gualberto Garcia Jones, Esq., wrote at LifeSiteNews that the bill’s exceptions should be dealbreakers on both moral and strategic grounds.

“How many times have we heard, or have we ourselves made the argument, that if we are not able to save all the innocent babies, we should at least try to save as many as we can?” he asked. “I know I made that argument to myself when I agreed to work for the morally compromised South Dakota law in 2008. Yet, when made in reference to legislation that specifically identifies vulnerable groups of people to be left out of the protection of the law, what is this argument but another form of utilitarianism, of accepting doing evil to a few that good may come to the rest?”

Jones also noted that the 2008 initiative to pass South Dakota’s ban with exceptions failed 55.2 percent to 44.7 percent, two years after the no-exceptions version failed 5.5 percent to 44.4 percent. “We had gained a whopping 0.3 percent of the vote by abandoning the most defenseless and allowing abortions in the cases of rape and health of the mother,” he said.

He went on to argue that pro-lifers having to settle for either demanding complete abortion abolition immediately or specifically exclude certain babies from pro-life reforms is a false choice.

“Legislation can be local, like municipal ordinances and resolutions,” Jones suggested. “Legitimate legislation can deal with the broader implications of the culture of death such as state laws dealing with the ethical issues with emerging tech, end of life issues related to euthanasia, and positive measures that favor childbirth over abortion. Other acceptable legislation can target the public funding of abortion and the elimination of abortion mandates.”

The Georgia bill now returns to the state House, which will decide whether to approve the additional exceptions.