Georgia officials, groups mobilize for abortion rights fight

By: - June 24, 2022 3:56 pm

A ‌leaked‌ ‌draft‌ ‌of‌ ‌a U.S. ‌‌Supreme Court majority opinion overturning Roe v. Wade triggered a large protest to protect abortion rights outside the Georgia State Capitol ‌on‌ ‌May‌ ‌14‌. Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

The U.S. Supreme Court’s Friday decision to overturn Roe v. Wade quickly reverberated throughout Georgia and beyond as the reaction ranged from ‌outrage and frustration among abortion rights supporters to jubilation from anti-abortion activists. 

With the landmark ruling throwing out a constitutional right to an abortion, regulating access to the procedure will now be left up to each state. 

Abortion rights advocates said the ruling is a devastating setback that limits women’s ability to make private medical decisions and determine what is best for them and their families.  

Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp responded Friday by saying he’s optimistic that the Supreme Court ruling will prove favorable in court for the state’s 2019 anti-abortion law and House Speaker David Ralston, a Blue Ridge Republican, applauded the ruling that gives state elected officials the authority to decide the law. Georgia’s law that bans abortions after the first sign of fetal cardiac activity, usually about six weeks into pregnancy, has been on hold pending the Supreme Court decision. 

“I am proud that the House has also championed significant legislation to nurture a culture of life in Georgia – extending postpartum Medicaid coverage, providing a paid parental leave benefit for state employees, and modernizing Georgia’s adoption code,” Ralston said in a statement.

Georgia’s Democratic nominee for governor, Stacey Abrams, said the heartbeat law signed by Kemp is dangerous and called Supreme Court’s decision “mean-spirited” because it will inhibit access to safe abortions and ‌make it more difficult for‌ ‌doctors to‌ ‌‌save lives. 

“As the next governor of Georgia, I will fight each day to defend the right to choose and veto any legislation that further restricts abortion rights,” Abrams said in a statement. “I will work to ensure equity in access and family planning, increase availability of Plan B and emergency contraception, expand Medicaid to support low-income women, and invest in critical maternal health care to reduce the maternal and infant death rates in Georgia.”

U.S. Rep. Buddy Carter, a Pooler Republican, hailed the overturning of the 1973 decision. 

“Millions of children have been silent victims of a decades-long siege on their right to life,” Carter said in a statement. “The heartbeats heard in ultrasound appointments have now been heard by the Supreme Court, and we finally have a nation that honors the humanity of unborn children.” 

Democratic Party of Georgia Chair Congresswoman Nikema Williams said the devastating decision draws a line that separates politicians in favor of protecting women’s fundamental rights against those who want to erode them.

“With Roe v. Wade overturned, the Georgia GOP now has a clear path to enact their dangerous, unpopular anti-choice agenda that strips women of the right to make their own health care decisions,” Williams said.

Andrea Young, executive director of the ACLU of Georgia, says the development is especially troubling in Georgia, where Black women are disproportionately more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related conditions and face the consequences of a lack of access to medical care.

Monica Simpson, the executive director of the SisterSong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, which is the lead plaintiff in the lawsuit challenging Georgia’s 2019 law, said rolling back abortion rights is another example of white supremacy in America that’s played out in other facets of society. 

“This is not just about abortion. These attacks are about their desire to stay in power,” Simpson said. “But this moment has given us the opportunity to build our collective power. Folks are realizing that all of our social justice movements – voting rights, environmental justice, economic justice, racial justice, Queer & Trans liberation, disability justice – are inextricably linked to Reproductive Justice.”

The head of Georgia’s chapter of the Christian-based lobbying organization Frontline Policy Action & Frontline Policy Council, pledged to mobilize efforts to stop abortions across the nation.

“As we celebrate this great Supreme Court decision, we know that it is incumbent on the life movement to win at the ballot box, engage nationally and in 50 state Capitols, and endeavor to support women and children in this new post-Roe world,” Frontline president Cole Muzio said.

“The work is not done,” Muzio added. “The battle is entering a new stage, and we are committed to complete and total victory.”

Women’s rights and other civil rights groups vowed to continue fighting to ‌defend the rights of 36 million women of reproductive age as about half of the states ‌are‌ ‌poised‌ ‌to‌ ‌ban‌ ‌abortion.

“No abortion restrictions, even the ones pre-Roe, stopped people seeking access to abortion,” said Amy Kennedy, vice president of external affairs for Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates. “The Supreme Court’s ruling has just launched our nation into chaos and placed even more pressure on a health care system that was already buckling. 

“Let me be clear: We will not back down. No judge, no politician, no ban should ever block your personal medical decisions or set the course for someone’s health and life.” 

A 2020 Gallup poll aligned with the decade before of polls results with a roughly evenly split among people labeling themselves as “pro-choice” or “pro-life.” However, Gallup reported that consistently since 1975 80% of Americans saying abortions should be legal in at least some or all circumstances.  

The political divide is wide among abortion rights with a 2021 Quinnipiac polls finding that 89% of Democrats saying abortion should be legal in the majority or all of the cases compared to 39% of Republicans. Those numbers skyrocketed to north of 70% for Republicans when the pregnancy poses a medical threat or is the result of rape and incest.

Georgia’s 2019 bill has exceptions for rape and incest if a police report is filed and for life-threatening risks to women.

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Stanley Dunlap
Stanley Dunlap

Stanley Dunlap has covered government and politics for news outlets in Georgia and Tennessee for the past decade. At The (Macon) Telegraph he told readers about Macon-Bibb County’s challenges implementing its recent consolidation, with a focus on ways the state Legislature determines the fate of local communities. He used open records requests to break a story of a $400 million pension sweetheart deal a county manager steered to a friendly consultant. The Georgia Associated Press Managing Editors named Stanley a finalist for best deadline reporting for his story on the death of Gregg Allman and best beat reporting for explanatory articles on the 2018 Macon-Bibb County budget deliberations. The Tennessee Press Association honored him for his reporting on the disappearance of Holly Bobo, which became a sensational murder case that generated national headlines.

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