Georgia 6th: Handel opponent draws abortion contrast

A screenshot of Democrat Lucy McBath's latest ad, which highlights U.S. Rep. Karen Handel's abortion vote.
A screenshot of Democrat Lucy McBath's latest ad, which highlights U.S. Rep. Karen Handel's abortion vote.

Lucy McBath, U.S. Rep. Karen Handel's Democratic opponent, is using her latest ad to delve into abortion rights, one of the starkest policy differences in the 6th District Congressional race.

The gun control advocate highlighted Handel’s vote in favor of a bill that would ban most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy in the spot, which debuted today on local network and cable stations.

Handel’s “against a woman making her own health care decisions,” the narrator states in the ad, McBath’s second since securing the Democratic nomination. “Handel went to Congress and repeatedly voted to make abortion illegal, and she’d even jail doctors.”

“With so much at stake,” the spot concludes, “she’s too extreme for Georgia.”

The ad focuses on Handel's vote in favor of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a measure the House passed last fall on a party-line vote that has yet to be considered in the more closely divided Senate. In addition to barring most abortions after five months of pregnancy, the bill would impose fines or jail time on providers who carry out such abortions. Georgia has a similar law on the books.

Handel called the legislation “humane” for babies and mothers.

“Today, we understand so much more about a baby's development during pregnancy,” the Roswell Republican said in a speech on the House floor last October. “Voluntarily terminating the life of an innocent baby, when we know that baby can feel pain, can no longer be acceptable.”

When exactly a fetus starts to experience pain is under some dispute. Supporters of the bill say it begins at 20 weeks, but some researchers say the threshold comes later in pregnancy. Others have argued that fetal pain is different from those experienced by infants or adults.

McBath has sold herself as a defender of women’s health care and often discusses her experiences fighting off breast cancer twice. She’s slammed GOP efforts to defund Planned Parenthood and has vowed to “fight tooth and nail” for the health care provider’s services, which include abortions.

“I fully support funding programs that help enable women to have the autonomy to make reproductive decisions. This includes greater access to contraception products and family planning services,” McBath’s campaign website states.

Handel’s view that life begins at conception is one of her core beliefs and has been central to her political rise.

She made national headlines after she engineered the Susan G. Komen Foundation's decision to halt its partnerships with Planned Parenthood 2012. She resigned from her position as vice president for policy shortly thereafter as the charity faced a furious backlash from many supporters. Handel's book about the episode, "Planned Bullyhood," made her a conservative darling.

The first Republican woman to serve in the Georgia delegation, Handel often touts her support from the Georgia Life Alliance and Susan B. Anthony List, an organization that seeks to elect women who are against abortions. The latter called McBath's views on abortion "outside the mainstream" on Wednesday.

“She’s the extreme candidate on abortion, not Congresswoman Handel,” Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser said.

Handel has also been careful not to alienate abortion rights supporters in her suburban Atlanta district. Ahead of last year's special election, she called for beefing up federal funding for community health centers rather than Planned Parenthood.

The two candidates have recently ratcheted up their presence on local television stations, and they have more money to burn in the weeks ahead. McBath took in a whopping $961,000 in third quarter fundraising, while Handel had nearly $1 million sitting in the bank as of Oct. 1.

Here’s a transcript of McBath’s ad:

“A woman’s right to choose now hangs in the balance. So whose side is Karen Handel on? 

She’s against a woman making her own health care decisions. 

Handel went to Congress and repeatedly voted to make abortion illegal, and she’d even jail doctors. Because Handel voted multiple times for doctors and nurses to face criminal penalties if they perform abortions. 

Handel: with so much at stake, she’s too extreme for Georgia.” 

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