Candidates for Georgia’s top lawyer job polar opposites on abortion

Abortion rights activists gather at the Georgia State Capital Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Combined ShapeCaption
Abortion rights activists gather at the Georgia State Capital Saturday, June 25, 2022. (Steve Schaefer / steve.schaefer@ajc.com)

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Maybe more than in any other statewide race, abortion could be a key issue separating Georgia’s nominees for attorney general in this fall’s elections.

Within hours of the U.S. Supreme Court decision Friday overturning Roe v. Wade’s abortion protections, state Attorney General Chris Carr submitted a letter to a federal appeals court asking the judges to allow a 2019 Georgia anti-abortion law to take effect.

“I believe in the dignity, value and worth of every human being, both born and unborn,” Carr, a Republican seeking re-election this year, said in a statement. “The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision is constitutionally correct and rightfully returns the issue of abortion to the states and to the people — where it belongs.”

Carr’s Democratic opponent, state Sen. Jen Jordan, made national news in 2019 for her viral floor speech opposing Georgia’s law and has been vocal in her disagreement with the high court’s ruling.

“I still don’t think (Georgia’s law is) constitutional,” Jordan told reporters Monday.

If she is elected attorney general, she said, she won’t use taxpayer money to defend the law.

ExploreElection 2022: Complete guide to Georgia’s attorney general race

Reproductive rights groups and abortion providers sued the state in 2019 after the Legislature passed an abortion law outlawing the procedure in most cases once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, typically about six weeks into a pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant.

The challenge to Georgia’s law has been pending before a three-judge panel of the federal appeals court in Atlanta. In September, the panel put the case on hold, deciding to wait for the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Mississippi, the case used to overturn Roe v Wade.

Martin Cowen, a Libertarian who is also challenging Carr, said he was disappointed that the Supreme Court disregarded 50 years of legal precedent in overturning Roe v Wade. He said he wouldn’t go after violators.

“As attorney general, this would very likely be a very low priority,” Cowen said. “My office would not prioritize prosecuting a person who was consistent with Roe v. Wade doing abortions or getting abortions.”

Carr did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

Under the 2019 law, it would be illegal for physicians to perform abortions once fetal cardiac activity has been detected.

Jordan said she fears that abortion providers will stop practicing in Georgia, a state that has consistently ranked as having one of the highest rates of women dying within the first year after giving birth.

“This is not the way to solve (maternal mortality), by pushing physicians out of this state, by not valuing them, by not letting them make the judgment decisions they need to make to provide care to their patients,” she said. “But that is exactly what we’re going to do.”