Georgia Lawmaker's Anti-Abortion Proposal Could Punish Women for Miscarriages

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A Georgia state representative has reintroduced an anti-abortion bill that would make miscarriages a felony if the mother cannot prove there was no "human involvement."

The legislation from Rep. Bobby Franklin, a Republican, would make all abortions, described as "prenatal murder," illegal based on the belief that all life begins at conception. The bill's definition of "prenatal murder" excludes miscarriages "so long as there is no human involvement whatsoever" in causing them. Anyone convicted would face the death penalty or life behind bars.

Miscarriages, defined as pregnancies that end on their own within the first 20 weeks, are quite common. As many as 40 percent of all pregnancies end in miscarriage, often before a woman misses a menstrual period or even knows she is pregnant, according to the March of Dimes. About 10 to 15 percent of recognized pregnancies end in a miscarriage, the group found.

It is still unclear what causes miscarriages, but in most cases, it is a sign that the pregnancy is not developing normally.

Franklin's legislation does not clarify what defines human involvement or how this would be enforced.

Franklin did not return a message seeking comment. His voicemail greeting thanks callers for "calling to give me encouragement about sponsorship of HB 1 that recognizes prenatal murder is murder. I'm not able to take that encouragement right now."

His office told that the "right-to-life" bill is "not as stab at people who miscarriages." Franklin has introduced the bill each session since 2002 but it has never made it out of committee, his office said, adding that it likely never will.

But Franklin's legislation still prompted outrage among women's advocates.

"These proposals do nothing to prevent unintended pregnancies and abortions," Leola Reis, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood Southeast, said in an e-mail to "Lawmakers who truly care about women and families should work with Planned Parenthood to increase access to proven prevention initiatives like birth control and sex education."

"This type of initiative in Georgia and the recent attacks on publicly funded contraceptive programs nationally are out of step with the needs of women and families and out of step with American values," she added.