published Tuesday, March 15th, 2011

‘Prenatal murder’ bill sparks anger in Georgia

by Emily Bregel
  • photo
    Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta, follows debate from House floor during the legislative session at the Capitol in Atlanta

A bill that appears to criminalize miscarriage, introduced in the Georgia General Assembly by a Marietta legislator, has riled national women’s advocates.

House Bill 1, introduced by Rep. Bobby Franklin, R-Marietta, criminalizes all forms of abortion as “prenatal murder” and also could classify a miscarriage as a felony if the mother could not prove there was no “human involvement.”

“The language is so broad it implies that women who have a miscarriage will have to demonstrate it as such to avoid” being charged with a felony, said Leola Reis, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood of Georgia. “Not only is that preposterous, but it could lead to more government intrusion into our medical lives.”

Nearly one-fifth of known pregnancies end in miscarriage, according to the Mayo Clinic, and many more occur before a woman even knows she’s pregnant. Miscarriage typically occurs because the fetus is developing abnormally.

Franklin did not return calls seeking comment.

He has introduced the bill each year since 2002, but this year it has gone viral. Franklin’s legislative assistant said blogs and social media have prompted an outcry even from callers outside the country.

“We’ve clearly received hundreds of calls on it,” said Leigh Goff. “You can tell when something new has gone out, or it’s been tweeted or some group has picked up on it. So many of the calls are not from Georgia. There have been international calls.”

The bill has little chance of ever making it out of committee, according to Marshall Guest, press secretary for Speaker of the House David Ralston, R-Blue Ridge. But nevertheless, advocates for women are outraged.

The bill has shown up in postings on websites ranging from the Huffington Post to Jezebel to Mother Jones.

“There’s a new bill on the block that may have reached the apex [I hope] of woman-hating craziness,” wrote Jen Phillips on Mother Jones.

Blogger Anna North cites some of the bill’s “most insane provisions” on her blog for Jezebel, a website for women, and calls it an example of “legislative theater.”

The legislation would hold a woman responsible for the health of her fetus, defined to include every stage of pregnancy from the moment of conception.

Reis said the language also appears to criminalize birth control that prevents implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterine lining, including the birth control pill and an intrauterine device, or IUD.

The bill does not have the full backing of Georgia Right to Life, a group focused on protecting fetuses.

“We feel like there are other ways to accomplish the same goals, which is protection of the unborn,” said Suzanne Ward of Georgia Right to Life.

The group is striving to give a fetus legal status as a person but aims to do that through a constitutional amendment defining “personhood” as beginning at the moment of conception.

Though Ward said the group supports the premise of Franklin’s bill, “I think there’s some language that may need to be changed” regarding miscarriage, she said.

Franklin has been a member of the House since 1996. His biography on the Georgia House of Representatives website states he has been called “the conscience of the Republican Caucus because he believes that civil government should return to its biblically and constitutionally defined role.”

Contact staff writer Emily Bregel at or 423-757-6467.

about Emily Bregel...

Health care reporter Emily Bregel has worked at the Chattanooga Times Free Press since July 2006. She previously covered banking and wrote for the Life section. Emily, a native of Baltimore, Md., earned a bachelor’s degree in American Studies from Columbia University. She received a first-place award for feature writing from the East Tennessee Society of Professional Journalists’ Golden Press Card Contest for a 2009 article about a boy with a congenital heart defect. She ...

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SeaSmokie59er said...

Can there be civil penaties as well? If so, can life insurance and medical insurance be purchased in the name of the fetus? Every month that an egg doesn't fertilize will there be an investigation?

March 15, 2011 at 4:19 a.m.
rockman12 said...

This bill is a load of crock. The states are trying to get rid of the federal mandate that all Americans have health care (by claiming it is unconstitutional)while at the same time they are trying to dictate health care (which would also be unconstitutional). If this bill passes I hope that there is a major lawsuit against the state of Georgia. It is time that our Republican leaders stop being hypocrites. You are either for government health care or against it. Chose which way you are going and if you are against government health care then you don't have the right to legislate any bill that has anything to do with health care including abortion (which is a health care decision). STAY OUT OF OUR PERSONAL LIVES!!!!!!!

March 15, 2011 at 7:10 a.m.
ceeweed said...

Marietta, Georgia, You are the laughing stock of the Nation. It is hard not to draw an opinion about the people of Marietta when you elect people like Franklin. After all, he is just doing the will of of the voters who put him in office.

March 15, 2011 at 9:18 a.m.
GeorgiaRebel said...

I wonder how many people have actually read Bobby Franklin's bill. It does NOT criminalize a miscarriage. Accuracy in reporting doesn't seem to be a hallmark of today's media.

March 15, 2011 at 10:34 a.m.
lkeithlu said...

The bill states: " 'Prenatal murder' means the intentional removal of a fetus from a woman with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead fetus; provided, however, that if a physician makes a medically justified effort to save the lives of both the mother and the fetus and the fetus does not survive, such action shall not be prenatal murder. Such term does not include a naturally occurring expulsion of a fetus known medically as a 'spontaneous abortion' and popularly as a 'miscarriage' so long as there is no human involvement whatsoever in the causation of such event."

The bill also clearly defines life beginning at conception, so therefore anything that happens after conception is happening to a human, and if is due to the actions of another human it is considered murder. Therefore, under this bill, women who use an IUD or any other birth control device that prevents implantation of a fertilized egg is committing murder and can be charged as such. Also, any woman who knowingly participates in a sport that may dislodge or prevent implantation can conceivably be held for murder. So, no, the bill does not criminalize miscarriage, but a woman can be asked to provide evidence that she did not participate in any action that may have caused it. If that isn't an extreme intrusion into a woman's private affairs, including the use of LEGAL forms of birth control, then I don't know what is. This guy Franklin is a nutcase. Thanks, Marietta.

March 15, 2011 at 10:59 a.m.
GMills said...

Read the Hand Maid's Tale by Alcott for an awakening. This is just the beginning.

March 15, 2011 at 10:39 p.m.
GALifeSolutions said...

I don't think that Miss Bregel has read this bill. The portions of this bill that deal with miscarriage are almost exactly identical to current procedure for miscarriage. The only difference is that a doctor would not have to report an abortion if this bill passed (as is required under current law), because that would require him to incriminate himself. Read more here:

April 15, 2011 at 6:38 a.m.
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