A man walks past abortion rights advocates protesting against House Bill 481, the “heartbeat bill” that would outlaw most abortions in Georgia. (ALYSSA POINTER/ALYSSA.POINTER@AJC.COM)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

 ‘We warned you.’ Abortion rights groups vow payback as Kemp preps to sign ‘heartbeat’ bill

Prominent abortion rights groups launched a campaign Tuesday targeting Republican supporters of the “heartbeat” measure hours before Gov. Brian Kemp was set to sign the new restrictions into law.

The “#ReclaimGeorgia” campaign by NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia and Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates aims to spend six figures to mobilize activists and “put unprecedented pressure” on supporters of the measure ahead of next year’s election. 

Laura Simmons, the NARAL state director, said it’s designed to “educate voters and put lawmakers on notice that advocates for reproductive freedom will not let legislators off the hook for turning their backs on women and families by voting to criminalize abortion and punish women.”

> UPDATE: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signs new abortion law 

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Advocacy groups don’t typically roll out grassroots campaigns focused on lower-profile state legislative races this early in an election cycle. But the launch on Tuesday highlights a strategy shift as groups try to engage and energize voters long before the election. 

Already, the state Democratic Party has unveiled a “Blue Challengers Initiative” seeking to recruit challengers to run against dozens of Republicans, including several who voted “no” on the bill or skipped the vote. A handful of Democrats announced they’re running shortly after the measure passed.  

Anti-abortion groups have countered with the promise of a new effort to mobilize conservative voters to defend those seats. And the conservative Family Policy Alliance put out its own list of candidates to defeat, including a dozen Democrats and two Republicans who bucked the party line.

Kemp plans to sign House Bill 481 at 10 a.m. Tuesday in the governor’s ceremonial office at the state Capitol. It would outlaw most abortions once a doctor detects a heartbeat in the womb – which is usually about six weeks into a pregnancy and before most women know they are pregnant. 

Democrats, medical lobbies and civil rights organizations have forcefully opposed the measure, warning it could force women to take dangerous steps to seek abortions and cost millions in tax dollars to defend. They also say it could jeopardize Georgia’s pro-business reputation. 

Kemp and other Republicans made the heartbeat measure a leading priority of the legislative session, calling it their best option to preserve the sanctity of life. With two new conservative justices on the Supreme Court, they see an opening to test the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that legalized abortion. 

The new campaign will focus on direct-mail digital ads, door-to-door canvassing and phone calls. It’s likely to target suburban Republicans in competitive districts who backed the measure. 

“Georgia lawmakers were right to be nervous about voting for House Bill 481. We warned you: if you choose to vote against women’s rights, we’ll be voting against you in the next election,” said Staci Fox, head of Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates. “That begins now.” 

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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.
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