In a dramatic House vote to restrict abortions, the most heated moment came when Democratic state Rep. Renitta Shannon’s microphone was cut off by Speaker David Ralston and she was removed from the podium.
Video footage obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution showed what happened next from a few feet away as the Decatur Democrat was forced from the well of the House after defying limits on how long she was allowed to speak.
She was soon approached by security officials, and some other Democrats, urging her to leave the podium. Several Democrats stood to support her, and others added their encouragement from their seats.
The standoff ended when a security official edged her away from the podium, and the measure – which would outlaw most abortions as early as six weeks – passed by a narrow margin.
“We don’t have filibuster in Georgia. If we did, I’d still be there,” Shannon said. “So my only option was to cause such a ruckus that the speaker would be forced to table the bill.”
The tense showdown capped an emotional vote. Earlier, about 20 House Democrats stood and turned their backs on Republican Ed Setzler, the sponsor of the bill, as he began to talk. About a half-dozen briefly stormed from the chamber to compose themselves.
It was Shannon, though, whose actions captured the most attention. Delivering the final Democratic case against the bill, she refused to stop speaking when her time had expired and Ralston soon cut her audio.
As she continued to voice her criticism of the measure, an unidentified official approached her at the podium to try to take her papers. She brushed him off, but seconds later he returned with another official.
Several Democratic lawmakers surrounded her, some pleading with her to leave and others offering support. From the seats, one Democrat repeated “back off” to the approaching lawmakers in support of Shannon. Another called for her to sit down, saying, “Leave the well.”
Ralston chimed in, too, saying: “The lady would do well to heed the advice of her colleagues.”
The huddle at the podium quickly dispersed as Shannon was escorted away by an official, her papers scattered in her hand. Ralston, visibly frustrated, indicated that she and other Democrats would face sanctions for violating the House’s protocol.
“Everybody was on edge. It was a tough issue for people on both sides, and I respect that. That's no excuse for the rules being violated,” Ralston said after the vote. “I insist on there being civility and decorum in that chamber, and there were some breaches of that.”
Shannon, for her part, has no apologies. She said she made up her mind to take that action the moment the measure, known as the “heartbeat bill,” was approved in a House committee.
“I’m not a hothead,” she said. “But this was a bridge too far. At a certain point, it can’t be business as usual.”
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