Among the base-pleasing issues Georgia’s GOP legislators traditionally unwrap in election years, one can usually count on some kind of abortion restriction. The release last summer of undercover videos accusing Planned Parenthood of selling fetal body parts only raised expectations for such a bill this year.
Instead, the anti-abortion approach during this legislative session has been conspicuous for its subtlety, perhaps the result of a revamped pro-life movement that is no less conservative, just less confrontational.
Forget talk of heartbeats or pain sensitivity. In its place have been bills to help nudge pregnant women toward choosing life. One such measure, Senate Bill 308, creates a “Positive Alternatives for Pregnancy and Parenting Grant” for nonprofit pregnancy support centers.
“This summer, it was so devastating when the (Planned Parenthood) videos came out,” said the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Renee Unterman, R-Buford. “It was so tragic. … So we kind of looked inward, and we said … what can we do within our own state?
“We know we (in Georgia) have over 27,000 abortions in a year, what can we do to just save one? Or to save thousands of them? Or just to cut the number in half? So what do you do? You offer alternative services where people can get help, versus telling them how bad it is and how terrible it is and trying to convince them that way.”
The grants would help pay for medical care, ultrasounds, birth classes, nutritional education, housing and employment assistance, adoption services, goods such as car seats and formula, even information about Medicaid benefits. It’d start small, just $2 million a year, but Unterman said there’s plenty of room for growth.
“Pennsylvania spends $30 million a year,” she said. “They know it works. They’re very conservative; you’ve got the Amish, you’ve got very conservative people up there, and they know girls get pregnant. So they do connect the dots up there, so why not mimic that?”
Another approach can be found in two different bills, SB 331 by Sen. Bruce Thompson, R-Cartersville, and House Bill 713 by Rep. Brad Raffensperger, R-Johns Creek. Both measures would ensure rapists do not have parental rights for any children conceived during a sexual assault.
That’s common sense: No woman should be forced to deal with her attacker as the father of her child, and Raffensperger told me there have even been cases where men used that possibility to pressure their victims to drop charges against them. But it also removes one reason a woman might resort to abortion, without legislating bans and exceptions.
Unterman, an adoptive mother who spoke movingly on the Senate floor about her inability to bear children, said the point is to find any way to preserve life.
“You cannot believe the people I’ve gotten phone calls from that said, I’m glad you’re talking about something better, not something bloody and gory and gross and making women feel guilty,” she said. “Because a lot of women do feel guilty. And this is something that you know, they can move on with their life. I know that because I’ve experienced it with two birth mothers. And they don’t feel guilty.”