Georgia state troopers keep watch as a crowd of pro-choice protestors rally outside of the state Capitol after signing of HB 481 in Atlanta on Tuesday. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJ
Photo: Alyssa Pointer/ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJ

The Jolt: The delayed fuse on Georgia’s ‘heartbeat’ law

When noting the silence that has greeted Gov. Brian Kemp’s signing of House Bill 481, which would require most women to carry their pregnancies to term once the fetus is about six weeks old, it is important to note the date the law will go into effect: Jan. 1, 2020.

The ACLU has promised a lawsuit to overturn the “heartbeat” law. Elements in Hollywood have pledged a boycott Georgia’s rising movie and TV industry. Neither has occurred – and the fact that the law won’t kick in for another eight months is one reason.

“It’s the start date, and also the complexity of the bill,” Andrea Young, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Georgia told us this morning. “If this were just a straight, six-week abortion ban the law on that would be clear on its face. This has so many elements to it that have been cobbled together.”

There is the “personhood” issue – the new Georgia law gives a delicate collection of cells the size of the fingernail on your little finger the full legal status of a standalone human being. A maze of protections and penalties for physicians – and the women who undergo abortions – must be sorted out, Young said.

“We want to do a completely comprehensive filing. There are so many concepts in here that don’t have any context in Georgia law. They’ve not been explored,” the ACLU leader said.

Young agreed that the “heartbeat” laws delayed effective date is one reason there’s been no film industry stampede out of the state. But Georgia could see a decline in new ventures in the coming months, she said.

“People are not starting new projects here. Apple has green-lighted a project that is going to New York. They’re not going to come to Atlanta. It was a 10-episode sci-fi drama by one of the “X-men” creators,” Young said. “These projects, to sustain the industry, have to constantly be refreshed with new projects.”

On Wednesday, David Simon, writer/producer best known for “The Wire” , took to Twitter to say he would not shoot any new projects in Georgia:

“I can’t ask any female member of any film production with which I am involved to so marginalize themselves or compromise their inalienable authority over their own bodies. I must undertake production where the rights of all citizens remain intact. Other filmmakers will see this.”

One of the coarser calls to action has come from Charles Finch, an author and book reviewer for prominent publications, urged his Twitter followers not to let Gov. Brian Kemp, House Speaker David Ralston and state Rep. Ed Setzler eat in public undisturbed: “Protest at their houses. Make their faces infamous.”

But for now, it appears that such eruptions will be individual ones.

A closer look: Why Georgia’s anti-abortion law is ‘just the beginning’

Kemp signs anti-abortion ‘heartbeat’ legislation, sets up legal fight

Photos: Gov. Kemp signs anti-abortion ‘heartbeat’ bill 

Abortion rights groups vow payback as Kemp preps to sign ‘heartbeat’ bill

Could Georgia abortion law challenge Roe v. Wade?A look at abortion bills around the U.S. in 2019

States across the South advance anti-abortion ‘heartbeat’ legislation

IndieWire, a website devoted to the independent film industry, looked at Hollywood’s slow response to Georgia in a piece posted Wednesday. If you’re interested in this state’s film industry, it’s worth your time. A taste:

For those inclined to make a stand against the Heartbeat Bill, the issue of when is unclear. The film and TV industry has spent over a decade steadily building infrastructure in Atlanta that has allowed Hollywood to take full advantage of the state’s uncapped tax incentive. Unlike other states’ incentives, Georgia’s includes 30 percent back on above-the-line costs (like actors’ and directors’ salaries) in addition to below-the-line costs…

...Sources tell IndieWire that they don’t know what a Georgia boycott could accomplish as this plays out in the courts. The ability to influence state politicians on this issue has passed. The impact would be on Hollywood itself, the vendors and crew that have relocated to the state, and its own bottom line. Hollywood brought more dollars back from Georgia ($800 million) during the 2018 fiscal year than the New York, New Mexico and California rebates combined.

That could change, the piece acknowledged, on Jan. 2, 2020.

***

White House hopeful Cory Booker joined the chorus of Democrats opposing Georgia’s new anti-abortion law. But he took his criticism a step further, calling it a “direct result of an undemocratic election.” From a statement published by the Washington Examiner:

“If we had fair elections with fair district lines, Georgia’s leadership would look a lot different, and the women of Georgia would not be relegated to second-class citizenhood

As president, I will fight to ensure that every voice is heard so that we don’t have radical politicians imposing their agenda upon women they have not met and can never fully understand.”

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Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan on Wednesday became the highest-profile politician to wade into the race for Georgia GOP chairmanship with an endorsement of longtime Republican activist Scott Johnson.

This endorsement, which came via tweet, was no surprise. Johnson is running against former state Sen. David Shafer of Duluth who was narrowly defeated by Duncan in last year’s GOP runoff. There remains no love lost between their two camps. 

That aside, Duncan is taking a calculated risk by plunging into the race. 

Party activists snubbed then-Gov. Nathan Deal in 2011 when they elected Sue Everhart to another term as party chairwoman over his handpicked candidate. 

That led Deal to steer clear of party politics for the remainder of his tenure - he even skipped the 2016 convention - and most other high-profile politicians followed his lead.

His successor, Gov. Brian Kemp, is unlikely to buck this trend. His aides have made it clear that his administration won’t interfere with state party politics. The Georgia GOP convention will decide the matter on Saturday, May 18.

Everhart, the former GOP chair, has endorsed Shafer, by the way.

***

In Washington, the House Judiciary Committee's vote to hold Attorney General William Barr in contempt of Congress drew much of the political oxygen in Washington yesterday. U.S. Rep. Doug Collins of Gainesville, the committee's top Republican, had the exhausting and ultimately fruitless task of trying to derail the effort -- or at least throw up roadblocks as Democrats prepared to vote. 

The panel ultimately voted along party lines, 24 to 16, to hold Barr in contempt. Shortly thereafter, Fox News published a searing op-ed from Collins. A taste: 

"Democrats are angry. They are angry that our nation’s chief law enforcement officer and his deputy had the audacity to decide the evidence didn’t support charges for obstructing an investigation into something the president didn’t do.

Second, Democrats are afraid of what the attorney general will find when he completes his ongoing review of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuses at the Justice Department, including how the Russia investigation began.

So Democrats have resolved to neutralize Barr by attacking his integrity. Wednesday’s vote to hold him in contempt is another step to that end. What a cynical, mean-spirited, counterproductive and irresponsible step it is."

Two other Georgia lawmakers participated in that hearing. Democrats Lucy McBath of Marietta and Hank Johnson of Lithonia both voted in favor of holding Barr in contempt.

***

President Donald Trump isn’t changing his tune in the ongoing debate over a disaster relief package. The president inspected Hurricane Michael damage on Wednesday in the Florida panhandle. After visiting Tyndall Air Force Base, which was ravaged by Michael last October, the president told supporters in Panama City that Democrats were to blame for the lack of resolution on a lack of disaster recovery funding. He also zeroed in on the federal assistance previously given to Puerto Rico -- vastly inflating the amount the island has actually received. Read more here

***

Some of you have expressed interest in Wednesday’s column on the education levels among voters and the shift of north metro Atlanta into the Democratic column, which included these lines:

You and I are witnesses to a reshaping of Georgia politics, not just along demographic lines, but along educational lines, too. White voters with no college education are staying Republican. White, college-educated voters are moving to the Democratic column. Even the wealthy ones.

Patrick Egan is an associate professor in New York University’s Department of Politics. He ran the numbers on the 46 congressional seats that changed party hands in 2018. The two Republican pick-ups were both in rural Minnesota. In each case, college-educated voters numbered less than 30%.

Democrats had a net gain of 40 seats in the U.S. House. In one aspect, the Sixth District stood out from them all. “In terms of the percent of voting-aged adults who have a four-year college degree, the Georgia Sixth is right at the top,” Egan said. More than 60 percent have four-year degrees. The only other that came close was Virginia’s 10th District, with more than 50 percent.

Here’s a chart of Egan’s work, offered with his permission:

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A new documentary about U.S. Rep. John Lewis is in the works at CNN. The film chronicles the Atlanta Democrat's work on the campaign trail ahead of last year's midterms and in D.C. during the opening year of the 116th Congress, according to The Hollywood Reporter: 

"Employing a cinema verité style, the film will also include interviews with political leaders, congressional colleagues and other people who figure prominently in Lewis' life. His speeches and achievements will be highlighted through rare and recently discovered writings, insights from Lewis and people in his inner circle as well as visual and audio archival material that illuminate his continued influence on American culture and Congress." 

***

Former Demcoratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams will address Emory University seniors at 6 p.m. today as part of Emory's Annual Class Day. The event is open the press, but not the public.

Emory’s central commencement ceremonies are Monday and will feature former mayor and U.N. ambassador Andrew Young.

***

We’ve received memorial service details for Fulton County Commissioner Emma Darnell, who died Sunday at age 84. A funeral has been scheduled for 11 a.m. Monday at Jackson Memorial Baptist Church, 534 Fairburn Road in Atlanta. Arrangements are being handled by Willie Watkins Funeral Home, 1003 Ralph David Abernathy Blvd. SW, Atlanta.

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