The Jolt: Anti-abortion groups push Governor Kemp to shut down clinics in Georgia

This Feb. 25, 2020 shows Preterm executive director Chrisse France in the procedure room, in Cleveland. Court decisions in two U.S. states Monday, April 6, allowed abortions to continue after the procedure was caught in the crosshairs of governors’ orders suspending non-essential elective surgeries due to the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
Caption
This Feb. 25, 2020 shows Preterm executive director Chrisse France in the procedure room, in Cleveland. Court decisions in two U.S. states Monday, April 6, allowed abortions to continue after the procedure was caught in the crosshairs of governors’ orders suspending non-essential elective surgeries due to the new coronavirus. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)

Credit: Tony Dejak

Credit: Tony Dejak

An anti-abortion organization on Tuesday urged Gov. Brian Kemp to use emergency powers granted him during the coronavirus pandemic to shut down abortion clinics across the state.

“The governor has requested that all non-essential procedures be postponed during this time,” said Ricardo Davis, president of Georgia Right to Life. “This should apply to abortions, which are admittedly non-essential.”

GRTL and several other groups presented the governor with a 3,000-signature petition calling for the shutdown of facilities that, they allege, could expose women to the coronavirus and use up “precious medical resources.”

Similar efforts have been pushed in other states. Ohio is one. Texas is another.  From the Wall Street Journal:

A federal appeals court on Tuesday allowed Texas to suspend most abortions in the state during the coronavirus public-health crisis, a move that could quickly send the issue to the Supreme Court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in a 2-to-1 ruling, lifted a trial judge's restraining order that prevented the state from curbing abortions on the grounds that it would save medical resources.

In times of great emergency, states can reasonably restrict constitutional rights to protect public safety, the court's majority said.

More background by our AJC colleague Maya Prabhu can be found here.

The Georgia chapter of the ACLU sent us this reaction from Andrea Young, the group’s executive director:

"Several states are using the global pandemic as an excuse to pursue their ideological agenda to control women and undermine their personal autonomy with a blatant disregard for women's health.

"This is appalling and we will continue to fight on all fronts- to protect the right of women to make these intensely private decisions without interference by politicians."

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The Washington Post is citing early data that indicates African-Americans are succumbing to the coronavirus at rates disproportionate to their numbers:

The emerging stark racial disparity led the surgeon general Tuesday to acknowledge in personal terms the increased risk for African Americans amid growing demands that public-health officials release more data on the race of those who are sick, hospitalized and dying of a contagion that has killed more than 12,000 people in the United States.

A Post analysis of available data and census demographics shows that counties that are majority-black have three times the rate of infections and almost six times the rate of deaths as counties where white residents are in the majority.

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Gov. Brian Kemp is expected to extend the state's public health emergency into May, a move that's likely to result in the postponement of the May 19 primaries – as demanded by House Speaker David Ralston.

On Tuesday, at the insistence of Republicans who control the state’s legislature, Wisconsin went ahead with its primary vote, without the normal number of pollworkers and lines of masked voters that lasted two and three hours.

A local newspaper's Facebook video of Wisconsin Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, in full PPE as he helped at a precinct, is likely to make the decision in Georgia easier. From the CNN website:

"Actually, there's less exposure here than you would get if you went to the grocery store, or you went to Walmart, or you did any of the many things we have to do to live in the state of Wisconsin," Vos said.

Vos' message was strikingly disconnected from his PPE-heavy outfit, in which the speaker looked more like a surgeon than one of the state's most powerful politicians…

Vos and Republican State Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald opposed all efforts to stop in-person voting from taking place Tuesday because of the pandemic. Every other state with an election scheduled for April postponed their contests or shifted it to voting-by-mail only because of fears that holding an election in the middle of a pandemic could put the health of poll workers and voters at risk.

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We told you Tuesday that U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., had sent her private jet to Miami to bring back a stranded couple who had been trapped on a South American cruise ship by a coronavirus outbreak.

Later in the day, U.S. Rep. Doug Collins, the most prominent Republican standing between Loeffler and her November election, made sure his name was attached to a pharmaceutical firm's donation of 200,000 doses of hydroxychloroquine to the Georgia Department of Public Health.

The drug, used to treat malaria and autoimmune diseases, has been aggressively promoted by President Donald Trump to fight COVID-19 -- even though it has yet to be proven safe for that use.

In a statement, Collins said Georgia is one of the first states to receive a donation from the New Jersey-based company. Others include Louisiana, New York and Texas.

Gov. Brian Kemp’s administration did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the development, but the state’s top health official, Dr. Kathleen Toomey, has cast doubt about the efficacy of the drug.

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The coronavirus crisis has forced candidates to innovate to connect with voters. Democrat Carolyn Bourdeaux got the memo.

The Seventh District congressional contender has launched an app called “Electify” that turns the grassroots work by her supporters into a virtual game. It gives each custom “missions” to earn points, then ranks them on a scoreboard.

“We’ve had to move to phone-banks and on-line campaigning, and this is an innovative way to help people connect. I’m excited to try something fun and new that can engage our volunteers,” said Bourdeaux.

The missions are geared for the competitive set. Among the examples: call 10 voters in your area, or text five friends about the campaign.

A public policy professor, Bourdeaux is among a jumble of contenders competing for the Gwinnett-based seat being vacated by U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall, R-Lawrenceville.

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Two voting rights groups pushed Georgia elections officials to take immediate steps to make it easier for residents to cast ballots amid the coronavirus crackdown.

The New Georgia Project, the nonprofit launched by Stacey Abrams, and the Advanced Project National Office sent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Gov. Brian Kemp a letter outlining their demands, which include:

- Mail absentee ballots to all registered voters, not just active voters, for both the primary and general election

-- Make it easier for voters to submit and return ballot applications

-- Expand the state's early voting period

-- Create vote centers that allow voters to cast a ballot at any polling place on Election Day. 

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In endorsement news: State Rep. Josh McLaurin of Sandy Springs has endorsed U.S. Senate candidate Jon Ossoff, calling him the best Democrat to take on Republican incumbent Sen. David Perdue. "This moment is about the failure of systems," said McLaurin. "At the root of our problem is a deep corruption."