The Latest: Georgia House backs anti-abortion measure

Georgia joined a string of states moving to enact tough abortion restrictions when the state House on Thursday passed a ban on most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected

ATLANTA -- The Latest on Crossover Day at the Georgia legislature (all times local):

10:55 p.m.

Georgia joined a string of states moving to enact tough abortion restrictions, as the state House passed a ban on most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

During tense debate Thursday night, several Democratic lawmakers opposed to the bill turned their back to its author, Republican Rep. Ed Setzler. Earlier in the day, some handed out wire coat hangers in reference to unsafe home abortions.

Women in Georgia can currently seek an abortion up to 20 weeks into a pregnancy. A fetal heartbeat is generally detectable at around six weeks, before many women know they are pregnant.

The bill makes exceptions in the case of rape and incest, but only when the woman files a police report first, as well as when a fetus is deemed not compatible with life.

It now goes to the state Senate. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp backs the measure.


9:25 p.m.

A hate crimes bill that would add penalties for those convicted of targeting certain groups has passed the Georgia House.

The bipartisan measure succeeded on a vote of 96 to 64.

If it becomes law, Georgia would join 45 other states with an official hate crimes law.

The penalties apply to those who target others because of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, mental disability or physical disability.

Critics worry a hate crimes statute would not treat victims equally.

The Georgia Supreme Court struck down a 2000 hate crimes law, saying it was "unconstitutionally vague" and could be applied to every possible prejudice.


6:30 p.m.

Law enforcement officials in Georgia would need to keep rape kits for a longer time under a bill that passed the state House unanimously Thursday.

Current law requires rape kits to be stored for 10 years. The proposal would require Georgia to preserve the evidence as long as the crime remains unsolved or until a perpetrator's prison sentence has been completed.

The bill's author, Rep. Scott Holcomb, is an Atlanta Democrat and lawyer who said he's prosecuted rape and sexual assault crimes.

In an emotional speech on the floor, Holcomb said, "These crimes change and damage lives to a degree that is really incredible."

Holcomb was one of the main backers of a law passed in 2016 that helped cut down on the state's backlog of rape kits.

It now goes to the Senate.


3:10 p.m.

Georgia House Democrats are opposing a bill that would outlaw abortions after a heartbeat can be detected.

During a state Capitol news conference Thursday, advocates and lawmakers criticized the measure for "playing politics with women's bodies."

One doctor spoke about working with patients who tried to self-induce abortions.

Rep. Erica Thomas of Austell, vice chair of the House Democratic Caucus, said she's more than four months pregnant. Her decision to give birth was between her and her family and she said that's how it should be.

Timing to pass the legislation is tight. Thursday marks a deadline by which a bill must generally pass one chamber or the other.

The bill is not yet on the House calendar but could come up for consideration there later Thursday.

Gov. Brian Kemp has endorsed it.


2:40 p.m.

A plan for the state to take over control of Atlanta's airport has passed the Georgia Senate, despite vociferous opposition from Atlanta officials.

The legislation, introduced by Republican state Sen. Burt Jones of Jackson, would create the Georgia Major Airport Authority, a board appointed by state officials to oversee operations at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.

The airport is currently owned and operated by the city.

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms has come out strongly against the proposal, calling it "theft" from the people of Atlanta.

Jones said state control is needed because of corruption issues in the procurement process. Critics of the plan say those issues involved past administrations and that Bottoms, who assumed office last year, has taken steps to reform the process.

The bill will now go to the House for consideration.


10:50 a.m.

Georgia's legislature hits a critical deadline on Thursday: Crossover Day. It's a legislative deadline by which bills must generally pass out of one chamber or the other to remain alive for the session.

Several high-profile bills are under consideration, including a House bill to outlaw abortion after a fetus' heartbeat can be detected and a Senate bill to create a state authority to oversee operations at Atlanta's airport.

Republicans pushed the abortion bill through a tense and emotional committee hearing late Wednesday, where advocates and citizens on both sides of the issue were moved to tears.

Atlanta's mayor has come out strongly against the airport takeover plan.

Also up for possible consideration is a hate crimes bill that would add penalties for those convicted of targeting specific groups.