ATLANTA (AP) — Gov. Nathan Deal signed legislation Tuesday that bans most abortions five months after conception.
The new law, which takes effect Jan. 1, makes exceptions for pregnancies that threaten the life or health of the mother. Doctors could also perform an abortion after five months if they diagnose the fetus with a fatal defect — criteria added as a compromise in the waning hours of the 2012 Legislature.
Deal praised the law as a step to provide additional protection to unborn babies.
"Today, we are reaffirming Georgia's commitment to preserving the sanctity of all human life," Deal said in a statement released shortly after he signed the bill.
The measure passed over the objection of many female lawmakers. On Tuesday, Sen. Valencia Seay said the bill's passage and signing was "unconscionable, but not surprising" and typical of the male-dominated General Assembly.
"They are consistently bringing forth legislation that has nothing to do with what's really important to Georgians, like the economy, like jobs," Seay, D-Riverdale, said. "They are consistently bringing things to chip away at a woman's right to choose."
Georgia becomes one of several states to pass a version of the so-called "fetal pain act," including Nebraska, Kansas, Alabama, Idaho, Indiana and Oklahoma.
The laws depart from the standards established by the U.S. Supreme Court which allow states to limit abortions when there's a reasonable chance the fetus could survive outside of the womb, generally considered to be around 23 or 24 weeks.
In a statement, Planned Parenthood spokeswoman Leola Reis said the governor "joined a small but misguided group of men engaged in a war on women."
"Women should not be forced to adhere to legislative directives that are based on unsound medical science," she said. "This is out of step with the needs of women, discriminatory, and not the right focus for Georgia policy makers."
It is not clear whether legal action will follow the law's enactment.