Groups push Georgia lawmakers to completely ban abortion

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Drawing a slightly smaller crowd than in previous years, anti-abortion advocates gathered outside the Georgia Capitol on Friday to stress that last year’s overturning of Roe v. Wade was not enough — they want a total ban on abortion.

The annual event organized by Georgia Right to Life is held to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the now-moot U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade that guaranteed a constitutional right to abortion.

This year it served as both a memorial service and march for all the abortions that have been performed since the 1973 ruling, but also as a call to action to push Georgia’s abortion restrictions past the 2019 state law that went into effect last year.

Georgia’s law bans most abortions once a doctor can detect fetal cardiac activity, typically about six weeks into a pregnancy and before many know they are pregnant. The law allows later abortions in cases of rape, incest, if the life of the woman is in danger or in instances of “medical futility,” when a fetus would not be able to survive. A police report is required in order to obtain a later abortion if the pregnancy is caused by rape or incest.

Abortion rights activists and providers have challenged the law, saying it violates the right to privacy as outlined in the state constitution, and an appeal is expected to be heard by the Georgia Supreme Court later this year.

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Credit: arvin.temkar@ajc.com

Daphne Harris Nicely, executive director of the Atlanta Morning Center, a pregnancy resource center and clinic, reminded those in the crowd Friday that abortions are still happening in Georgia.

“So those who fought solely for the overturning of Roe v. Wade, you got what you asked for,” she said. “There’s still a lot of work to be done. We need the personhood, the humanity, the dignity of the life of that child to be recognized.”

The organization in 2019 encouraged lawmakers not to vote for what is now the state’s abortion law, saying it didn’t go far enough because it “discriminates against classes of innocent human beings” by including exceptions.

Georgia Right to Life Vice President Abigail Darnell said the organization will push two pieces of legislation this year.

One would amend the Georgia Constitution to grant “personhood,” a term used to describe the effort to grant rights to an embryo or fetus at conception and would effectively make all abortions illegal.

That bill, expected to be filed by Woodstock Republican state Rep. Charlice Byrd, is unlikely to pass because it requires support of two-thirds of the members of each chamber and then by a majority of Georgia voters. While Republicans, who are more likely to support restricting access to abortion hold a majority in the House and the Senate, they would need support from Democrats — who typically oppose additional restrictions on the procedure — to pass the measure.

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

Credit: Jason Getz / Jason.Getz@ajc.com

The second bill, expected to be filed by state Rep. Emory Dunahoo, a Gillsville Republican, would write “personhood” into Georgia law.

Bills only require support from more than half of the Legislature, so Republicans could pass it on their own. A draft of the bill explicitly stated that any harm done to a fetus or embryo would carry the same criminal consequences as when harm is done to someone who was “born alive.” That means doctors performing abortions and patients receiving them at any point of pregnancy could be charged with murder.

While Georgia’s law also includes “personhood” provisions, supporters have said that it would not allow for mothers to be prosecuted for abortions that occur after the cutoff. Legal scholars have said it is unclear how the law will be implemented.

Georgia House Speaker Jon Burns, a Springfield Republican, told reporters on Thursday that he won’t push new limits while the Georgia Supreme Court is weighing a legal challenge to the state’s 2019 restrictions.

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

Credit: Jason Getz/AJC

In a prayer during Friday’s memorial service and march, Nathaniel Darnell, the Georgia director for the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, referenced the recent death of former House Speaker David Ralston and asked God to warn other legislators who might stand in the way of passing stricter abortion regulations.

“Lord, may you please confront those legislators who might seek to be an obstacle to these efforts,” he said. “We thank you for how you have relieved us from one legislator, a speaker who made himself an obstacle, and we pray that father you would help other legislators to serve you in fear and to take warning.”