The Jolt: The gender cliff that is Georgia’s ‘heartbeat’ bill

The anti-abortion "heartbeat" bill sent to the desk of Gov. Brian Kemp on Friday prompted much talk over the weekend, plus an international headline or two.

Le Monde, the most prominent newspaper in France, made mention of it. On Sunday's "Meet The Press," NBC host Chuck Todd quizzed former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, now a Democratic candidate for president, about the Georgia measure.

Hickenlooper said the decision to carry through with a pregnancy belongs to the mother, but also added this:

"[O]ne of the things we did in Colorado over the course of five years, we got some foundation money, but we provided long-acting, reversible contraception. Things like Norplants and IUDs to 15 to 25-year-old young women.

"And in that process, over the last eight years, we have reduced teenage pregnancy and teenage abortion by over 60 percent. I mean, that's some of the -- I mean, that's the kind of accomplishment and achievement we should be looking at."

The voice of House Bill 481's sponsor, state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, rang out over NPR on Sunday. The bill's most prominent opponent, state Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, took the early NPR shift on today's "Morning Edition."

Why Jordan? She delivered one of the most powerful speeches of the session during Senate debate of HB 481. Ten days ago, we posted the video on YouTube. More than 13,000 have watched it.

The 56-member Senate passed the "heartbeat" bill on March 22. The legislation was carried by Renee Unterman of Buford, who makes up one-half of the Senate GOP women's caucus.

The other half was at a funeral. On Saturday, the Marietta Daily Journal caught up with state Sen. Kay Kirkpatrick, R-Marietta, and asked how she would have voted had she been in the state Capitol. Said the senator:

"The short version is I had concerns about the bill, and I submitted them as changes, and those were not accepted, and so I could not have supported the bill."

Also worth noting: When the House first took up HB 481, state Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, managed to be excused from voting. On Friday, in the final vote that sent the bill to the governor’s desk, Cooper voted against the measure.

Signs of a gender cliff: Final passage for HB 481 was a close-run thing, 92 to 78. Passage in the 180-member House required 91 votes.

Eight lawmakers were excused from voting, or simply did not vote. Seven were Republican, and all were men.

The excused: Dave Belton, R-Buckhead; Gerald Greene, R-Cuthbert; Bret Harrell, R-Snellville; Todd Jones, R-south Forsyth County; Dale Rutledge, R-McDonough; Ron Stephens, R-Savannah; and Mickey Stephens, D-Savannah.

Listed as not voting was Jeff Jones, R-Brunswick.


Fresh blood in the water: With HB 481, some of Georgia's economic rivals sense an opening to swipe some of the state's prized film business. Given that Gov. Brian Kemp is certain to sign the legislation -- and a court challenge just as certain -- his counterpart in Michigan made a play for the film business.

"Hey Georgia film industry: Come up to Michigan!" read the Tweet from Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro tried the same thing, Tweeting that "any state that guts women's rights won't succeed."

The moves are reminiscent of last year’s attempts to capitalize on the Georgia GOP’s tiff with Delta over gun rights issues, and Kemp’s allies say this effort is similarly doomed.

Why? Because of Georgia’s lucrative tax credit program for film and TV productions - the most generous in terms of direct investment in the nation.

So far, despite dozens of Hollywood celebrities threatening to boycott the state, no major TV or film studio has echoed that call.


According to the Savannah Morning News, Alderman Van Johnson, one of two African-American candidates for mayor, apologized on Friday afternoon for attending a "unity" meeting that excluded non-black journalists.

Savannah Alderman Van Johnson, who is running for mayor, apologized Friday afternoon for speaking at a political meeting this weekend that blocked non-black reporters from attending.

The meeting made headlines across the country, and prompted harsh criticism in the state Capitol from Reps. Al Williams of Midway, Craig Gordon of Savannah and Carl Gilliard of Garden City, all Democrats.


Up in Washington, Roll Call newspaper points out that President Donald Trump's nominee to head the Interior Department, former energy lobbyist David Bernhardt, gets a confirmation hearing this week that could give GOP senators on the Eastern Coast some heartburn:

Several Republicans are scrutinizing the Trump administration's proposal released last year to open up almost all of the nation's coasts to offshore drilling. Such a push could mark a stark shift in tone from a party that years ago saw oil rigs in the ocean as a viable pathway to American energy independence.

Four Republican senators from coastal states are running for reelection in 2020: Susan Collins of Maine, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and David Perdue of Georgia. Others such as Rick Scott of Florida could also face pressure to oppose the Bernhardt nomination over the plan.