Freshman Dems push bill to reverse Georgia’s 2019 anti-abortion law

By: - March 10, 2020 6:01 am

Rep. Beth Moore, flanked by her fellow freshman Democrats, pushes a repal for Gov. Brian Kemp’s strict anti-abortion law. The law, which is blocked by a federal judge, outlaws abortions in cases when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

A group of freshman Democratic legislators is pushing to repeal Georgia’s strict anti-abortion “fetal heartbeat” legislation nearly a year after lawmakers first bitterly debated it in the halls of the Capitol.

A federal judge last fall blocked the law from taking effect in January. It would ban most abortions once a heartbeat is detected – as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. Detractors say that’s before most women even know they are pregnant. 

On Monday, 10 Georgia Democrats first elected in 2018 gathered in the basement of the Capitol to announce their intentions to scuttle the issue for good. Rep. Beth Moore, a Democrat from Peachtree Corners, sponsored the bill to repeal the 2019 anti-abortion legislation. Her House Bill 1134 was co-signed by about 40 other Democrats but was not available online in time for this story’s publication.

Moore repeatedly called the heartbeat bill government overreach at Monday’s Capitol press conference.

“We believe that men and women are capable of making their own health care decisions without big government getting in the way,” Moore said. “We believe that doctors should be free to practice medicine and follow the Hippocratic oath without big government getting in the way, that private personal decisions about sexual health, reproduction, miscarriage and abortion are best left to the individual in consultation with his or her partner, doctor and faith community without big government getting in the way.”

During the gubernatorial campaign, Kemp called himself “unapologetically pro-life” and pledged to support anti-abortion legislation that would be among the strictest in the country.

Moore, whose 2018 platform included expanding access to reproductive health care, said Kemp’s words inspired political newcomers to seek office in 2018 as Democrats.

Rep. Shelly Hutchinson, a Democrat from Snellville, said the heartbeat bill’s passage had the same effect on qualifying for the 2020 election season.

“(We) received hundreds of thousands of complaints, and activism that we had never seen before,” she said. “We were contacted by people who are ready to run for office, who were excited, and we helped them register, the most people who have registered to run for office for the House since the 90s.”

Last year’s anti-abortion legislation activated more than just her party’s base, said Rep. Becky Evans, a Democrat from Atlanta.

“It also woke up the Republican women up in the suburbs,” Evans said. “I have many good friends, conversations over lunch with lifelong friends who were like, ‘this is going to be a deal-breaker.’ So it’s not just Democrats, it’s women across Georgia, who are talking about my body, my decisions, my future, you need to trust us, you need to support us to make these decisions.”

The sole Democrat who voted against the measure, Rep. Mack Jackson of Sandersville, drew a primary challenger last week when consultant Danny Thomas qualified for the seat as a Democrat.

Thomas said Monday Jackson’s vote “contributed greatly” to his decision to run.

“My position is simply that we need a change in our district,” he said. “I truly feel that when you’re a representative of a majority-female constituency, and particularly a high percentage of African American females, you should always vote in their best interests, especially when you are dealing with issues of health.”

Anti-abortion group Georgia Right to Life’s director of chapter development Genevieve Wilson said it’s wrong to think of the issue in terms of legislative seats gained or lost.

“Whether children are killed in the womb or not is not a political issue, it is a moral issue,” she said. “A nation that says because I am big and I can speak, that I have the right to kill someone who is not able to speak and who is small, is, to me, the epitome of abuse and bullying and the worst kind of discrimination.”

Wilson also said Democratic voters will not be the only ones paying attention to abortion legislation.

“I think we’re already seeing that,” she said. “We don’t have as much publicity on the local level, but I think we’re already seeing that, on the national level.”

Rep. Beth Moore, flanked by her fellow freshman Democrats, pushes a repal for Gov. Brian Kemp’s strict anti-abortion law. The law, which is blocked by a federal judge, outlaws abortions in cases when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

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Ross Williams
Ross Williams

Before joining the Georgia Recorder, Ross Williams covered local and state government for the Marietta Daily Journal.Williams' reporting took him from City Hall to homeless camps, from the offices of business executives to the living rooms of grieving parents. His work earned recognition from the Georgia Associated Press Media Editors and the Georgia Press Association, including beat reporting, business writing and non-deadline reporting. A native of Cobb County, Williams holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Atlanta's Oglethorpe University and a master’s in journalism from Northwestern University.