ATLANTA - Anti-abortion state lawmakers suffered a setback Friday while trying to put more restrictions on the procedure.
They argued it's a matter of safety, but pro-abortion forces argued the real motive is to make it more difficult and expensive for women to get abortions.
Of the 36,000 abortions performed in Georgia each year, about 95% are done in clinics or doctors' offices.
SB 209 would require that all elective abortions be done in hospitals.
The hastily amended bill sparked spirited testimony before the State Senate Rules Committee.
Supporters claim the restriction would make abortions safer by preventing injuries and deaths.
"This is happening in our state much more regularly than would be known," argued bill supporter, Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth).
Other than one 2008 case, bill supporters presented no statistical evidence to support their claim.
Abortion providers argued one reason the U.S. Supreme Court made abortion legal in the famous 1973 Roe v. Wade decision was because too many women were dying during illegal abortions.
"Abortion is the most common and safe outpatient procedure in the United States," testified Mary Beth Pierucci of Planned Parenthood of the Southeast.
Lobbyist Earl Rogers of the Georgia Hospital Association tried to remain neutral on the bill.
But he testified that it would flood the state's 170 hospitals with thousands of extra patients and could possibly force some hospitals and doctors to perform abortions against their will.
Clearly overwhelmed with a complicated issue, Rules Committee Chairman Sen. Don Balfour (R-Snellville), tabled the bill saying it needed more work.
That means the measure is essentially dead for this year.
Both sides vowed to continue the battle.
"As even those that are pro-choice or pro-abortion have said, they need to be rare and they need to be safe and that's the objective we're trying to get to," said the bill's author, Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville).
"It's clearly unconstitutional," said Planned Parenthood's Pierucci, who predicted a court battle if the measure ever passes.
But Senator Loudermilk isn't finished just yet.
His SB 210 is still alive.
It would allow someone to sue a doctor for wrongful death if an abortion is performed without meeting certain state criteria, including notifying the parents of a minor in advance.