Conservative Groups Set Sights On Abortion Amendment

ATLANTA (AP) - Georgia's most ardent abortion opponents are rallying behind a far-reaching proposal in a move that threatens to divide the state's conservative factions.

Anti-abortion advocates have gathered dozens of House sponsors to support a constitutional amendment called the "Human Life Amendment." They enlisted Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee to headline a march last month.

The amendment would change the state constitution by granting "personhood" to fetuses. Sponsors say it's a bid to create a
legal foundation to challenge the Supreme Court's 1973 Roe v. Wade
decision that legalized abortion.

The amendment must earn two-thirds support in the Legislature and a majority of Georgia voters. But first, it must survive a skeptical House Judiciary Committee, which began two days of hearings today.

The panel's chairman, Representative Wendell Willard, and other members expressed reservations that the measure could conflict with
existing Georgia law.

Legislators and legal scholars are wary of wording that asserts that the "right to life is the paramount and most fundamental right of a person." They argued it could be interpreted to restrict capital punishment and the use of contraceptives -- and even prevent first responders from answering dangerous calls.

The latest version of the amendment, unveiled today, includes specific exemptions for the death penalty, living wills and the use of birth control. But lawmakers on the committee, which typically handles the brunt of the House's meatiest legislation, still seemed unconvinced.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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