House Speaker David Ralston. EMILY HANEY / EMILY.HANEY@AJC.COM
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Top Ga. lawmaker: ‘Stay tuned’ for vote on anti-abortion bill 

House Speaker David Ralston lashed out Friday at Hollywood celebrities who have threatened to abandon Georgia’s film industry if a sweeping anti-abortion law is signed into law, and said to “stay tuned” on a final vote on the controversial measure.

The Republican criticized a letter signed by more than 40 Hollywood celebrities who said they will push Hollywood studios to leave Georgia, which has become one of the nation’s most popular TV and film production sites thanks to a generous tax credit that Ralston has helped champion.

“I’d never thought I’d get a letter from all the movie stars I got a day or so ago, and that troubles me a bit,” he said. “I’ve got a lot of good people here in this Capitol that I look to for advice, I’ve got people back in the mountains I turn to for, but I really don’t need Rosie O’Donnell giving me advice on Georgia issues.”

Ralston’s comments came as House Republicans are facing mounting pressure from both sides of the aisle to reject the anti-abortion “heartbeat bill” as they prepare for a final vote. Several conservative groups have also called to defeat House Bill 481 because they say it doesn’t go far enough. 

The speaker said Friday he’s confused by the outrage pouring in from critics from outside the state. 

“Is anybody shocked that we’re a conservative state? I find it hard to believe that they brought some of these productions here, and they’re saying they’re shocked that Georgia is a conservative state,” he said. “Which we are, and we’re going to continue to be.”

If the proposal becomes law, it would be among the strictest in the nation, banning most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy — when its supporters say doctors are able to detect a fetal heartbeat.

Along with the celebrities, a string of other prominent in-state critics have urged Georgia lawmakers to reject the measure, including several influential medical groups and the ACLU, which has vowed to challenge the law in court if it’s signed by Gov. Brian Kemp.

And the Georgia Right to Life, an influential conservative group, said in a letter to members that it opposed the bill because of exceptions that would allow abortions in the case of rape, incest, medical emergencies or “medical futility,” meaning the fetus would not be able to survive after birth.

Corporate powers and pro-business boosters, meanwhile, have stayed on the sidelines.

Supporters of the measure have little room to maneuver. It narrowly passed the House earlier this month, but it needs another vote in the chamber before it heads to Kemp, who is certain to sign it. 

There are only two days left to vote on the measure – Friday or Tuesday – and the sponsor, state Rep. Ed Setzler, acknowledged this week that some “terrified” fellow Republicans are starting to waver.

Ralston said he’s trying to be “very deliberative because it’s an important issue, a very intense issue” though he would not give a timeline on when the vote would be held. 

But he was definitive on another issue: He said he was confident rank-and-file Republicans were not having second thoughts. 

“I’ve not seen any terrified Republicans. At all.”

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About the Author

Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein
Greg Bluestein is a political reporter who covers the governor's office and state politics for The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.