ATLANTA (Reuters) - Georgia Governor Nathan Deal on Tuesday signed legislation banning most abortions after 20 weeks pregnancy, the seventh state to outlaw most late-term abortions based on controversial research that a fetus can feel pain by that stage of development.

Georgia already prohibits most abortions starting in the third trimester.

But lawmakers in the Republican-controlled legislature passed the measure banning most abortions after 20 weeks, or in the later weeks of the second trimester.

The legislation allows exceptions to save the life of the mother and if the fetus has extreme defects that make survival unlikely.

"This legislation provides humane protection to innocents capable of feeling pain, while making an important exception for in the case of medically-futile pregnancies," Governor Deal said in a statement.

Neither side in the abortion debate was totally happy with the outcome. Georgia Right to Life, which opposes abortion, has called the new legislation "a step in the right direction" but expressed disappointment at the exemption for "medically futile" pregnancies in which the fetus is likely to die after birth.

Abortion opponents said that the exception left the door open for a doctor to recommend abortion of fetuses that are less than completely healthy.

Planned Parenthood, which provides women's health services and is the nation's largest abortion provider, said the bill would limit women's access to healthcare.

The organization said in a statement that the bill "calls into question every woman who makes a deeply personal, private medical decision."

Georgia joins Alabama, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and North Carolina in banning most or all abortions after 20 weeks.

(Editing by Greg McCune)