Former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during the DNC's “IWillVote” gala in Atlanta on Thursday. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC
Photo: HYOSUB SHIN / AJC

The Jolt: Abortion becomes a subdued GOP issue, but a loud one among Democrats

Spoken and unspoken, abortion was a major theme of Georgia politics on Thursday.

While Joe Biden stewed over the topic at a gathering of Democratic presidential candidates in Atlanta, the only Republican woman in the state Senate to support Georgia’s new anti-abortion “heartbeat” law formally entered the Seventh District congressional race.

Unterman carried the bill in that chamber, and celebrated the event with a photograph in which she posed with the 33 Republican men in the Senate who would vote with her that day. But she gave little mention to that March accomplishment in her debut speech as a federal candidate, according to our AJC colleague Amanda Coyne:

But she did not focus on that legislation in her announcement, instead hammering home her deep Gwinnett County roots and proclaiming she wants to focus on “kitchen table issues” like health care reform, the national debt and transportation.

Unterman, a former nurse, said in her speech that she would advocate for a “patient-centered” health care system with greater price transparency and protect those with pre-existing medical conditions.

After her announcement, she said she was not defined solely by her stance on abortion, but that she realizes she will likely be involved in what has become a “national conversation” on the issue.

Unterman is attempting to thread a needle here. The contest for the Seventh District is likely to be a gender-driven affair, a fact that Unterman acknowledged as her event ended – and she danced to Martina McBride’s “This One’s For The Girls.”

Meanwhile, the lede story out of a pair of Democratic gatherings in Atlanta was former Vice President Joe Biden’s flip on the Hyde Amendment – a prohibition on the use of federal funds for abortions. The Biden campaign had endorsed the 1970s-era law only a day earlier, which put the candidate at odds with nearly every other Democratic rival in the field. Hence the flip:

The White House hopeful told Democratic donors at an Atlanta fundraiser that anti-abortion measures adopted in Georgia and other states are a signal that Republicans are not going to “let up” on adopting aggressive abortion restrictions. 

“I can’t justify leaving millions of women without access to the care they need and the ability to (access) their constitutionally protected right,” Biden said.

"If I believe health care is a right, as I do, I can no longer support an amendment that makes that right dependent on someone's zip code," he said.

The catch is that, for all practical purposes, Democratic opposition to the Hyde Amendment is only theoretical at this point. From the Washington Post:

The House is scheduled to start debate on Wednesday on an appropriations package funding the Department of Health and Human Services and other agencies for the 2020 fiscal year — and it includes the Hyde Amendment…

The Democrats who presided over the writing of the measure, Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and HHS subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.), have both said they ultimately want to scrap the Hyde language…

But both women know well that picking a fight over Hyde right now — with Republicans in control of the Senate and the White House — could easily spiral into an all-out war between the two parties, making it impossible for Congress to keep the government funded.

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You’ll be happy to know that a major cultural crisis in Carrollton has been averted. WLBB, the local radio station, reports that a local theater group will continue with its production of “Calendar Girls” after a pair of donors contributed $5,000 to the cause.

The city of Carrollton had pulled its funding from the production not because it features nudity (which it doesn’t), but because of “implications of nudity.” The mid-May explanation from city manager Tim Grizzard:

“This is a conservative town, a conservative mayor and council, and we are not comfortable having our name on this production,” Grizzard [said]. “I understand that it is not in any way pornographic. I know there’s no actual nudity involved. It just has the appearance of that sort of thing. It just sends a message that we are not comfortable having our name on.”

The play is based on an actual event – a group of middle-aged British women who produced a nude calendar for leukemia research as a means of consoling a widowed friend. Helen Mirren starred in the 2003 movie version:

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Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue on Wednesday admitted he was “anxious” that the recent tariff fight his boss raised with Mexico could jeopardize passage of the new NAFTA replacement deal, according to Bloomberg:

“I’m concerned and anxious over the fact that these types of tariffs may interfere with that ratification,” Perdue said in an interview following remarks at a [Maryland] forum.

The former Georgia governor has been a major proponent of the U.S. Mexico Canada Agreement, even as it’s split the Georgia agriculture community

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Our AJC colleague Kelly Yamanouchi reports that the nomination of a former Delta Air Lines executive tapped to lead the Federal Aviation Administration is on hold in the U.S. Senate. Yamanouchi reports that a committee is investigating how Steve Dickson treated a pilot under his jurisdiction who raised safety concerns about the airline. 

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In 2018, Democrats centered their congressional campaigns on health care and safeguarding protections for pre-existing conditions. In 2020, they hope to push that discussion into Georgia’s brewing blockbuster U.S. Senate race.

Case in point: A new digital ad campaign being rolled out by the Senate Democratic campaign arm today hits U.S. Sen. David Perdue for his support of year-old lawsuit that could take down Obamacare. 

“Senator Perdue is all too eager to see this lawsuit succeed, no matter its impact on Georgians,” said Stewart Boss, a spokesman for the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee.

The lawsuit was filed by state attorneys general in several red states – including Georgia’s Chris Carr. An initial ruling from a federal district judge in Texas struck down the entire Affordable Care Act late last year. His decision is under appeal.

Perdue has backed multiple GOP efforts to repeal and replace Obamacare. "We have to make sure people have access to affordable health care, which they don’t under Obamacare. We have got to work to reduce premiums, which have skyrocketed and priced people out of the market," he said after the GOP's Senate repeal effort came up short in 2017.

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