Amid tears, gasps and handshakes, a Georgia House committee approved legislation Wednesday to outlaw abortion after a fetus' heartbeat can be detected, which is before many women know they are pregnant.
Women in Georgia can currently seek an abortion up to 20 weeks of a pregnancy. A heartbeat is generally detectable by medical professionals at around 6 weeks.
The bill comes as abortion opponents across the country are hopeful the Supreme Court - with new Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh - will either reverse Roe v. Wade, or uphold specific state laws that could undermine the court's 1973 ruling establishing a nationwide right to abortion.
Wednesday's hearing was tense and emotional with several outbursts slowing proceedings and activists and citizens moved to tears on both sides of the issue.
The House Health and Human Services Committee approved the anti-abortion measure on a party-line vote of 17 to 14. Thirteen Republican men and four Republican women voted for it. Seven Democratic men and seven Democratic women voted against.
The committee approval means the bill could soon move to a vote before the full House, but timing is tight.
Thursday marks a Georgia legislative deadline by which a bill must generally pass one chamber or the other.
Gov. Brian Kemp pledged during his recent campaign for governor to sign the "toughest abortion laws in the country." Kemp's campaign website says he supports "a 'Heartbeat Bill' that outlaws abortions after six weeks."