The Jolt: Georgia moves to activate six-week abortion ban, Democrats vow to reverse it

News and analysis from the politics team at The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

In July of 2020, District Judge Steve C. Jones struck down Georgia’s six-week abortion ban, saying that his court was bound “to ensure constitutional rights are protected,” specifically a woman’s constitutional right to access abortion services as outlined by Roe v. Wade.

But with the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr filed notice with the 11th Circuit Friday requesting that it reverse the 2020 decision and allow House Bill 481, the so-called “Heartbeat bill,” to take effect.

Recall that the legislation passed in 2019 in extraordinarily close fashion, with just one vote to spare in the Georgia House.

With the midterm elections less than six months away, the Roe decision will reignite that battle and more, taking center stage in the political fight over the next few weeks.

Immediately after the Court’s decision Friday, Gov. Brian Kemp hailed the ruling as a “historic victory for life” – but he’ll face new pressure to take action beyond H.B. 481, including an outright ban on abortions. That’s not in the cards, at least not immediately.

The votes weren’t there for a more sweeping ban in 2019 and they’re still not. Kemp’s aides say he’s now focused on implementing the restrictions that have passed.

“We’re confident that Georgia’s LIFE Act will soon be fully implemented,” Kemp wrote on Twitter.

Kemp’s Democratic challenger, Stacey Abrams, was asked in interviews on both CNN and Fox News whether she supports any limits on abortion.

“I believe an abortion is a medical decision. That should be a choice made between a doctor and a woman, in consultation with her family,” she said.

On CNN, Abrams called the reversal of Roe “wrong” and “sinister,” and warned that Georgia’s H.B. 481 will be the law of the land “in a matter of days.”

“As the next governor, I am going to do everything in my power to reverse it,” Abrams said.

Also asked whether Georgia businesses should move or relocate based on H.B. 481, Abrams said, “I would tell every single business and every single woman that they should do what is best for the women who work for them.”



  • State Sen. Jen Jordan, the Democratic nominee challenging Chris Carr for attorney general, made the contrast between her and Carr clear, telling CNN, “Being investigated if you have a miscarriage, being prosecuted as a physician just be providing care, all of those consequences, they are coming to fruition, they are coming to bear because of what the Supreme Court did.”
  • Thousands participated in protests across Metro Atlanta, along with Macon, Savannah and Athens.


MORE COURT? With six conservatives now on the U.S. Supreme Court, Democrats around the country have advocated increasing the number of justices to get more left-leaning voices in the mix.

Stacey Abrams was asked on CNN whether she’d support expanding the U.S. Supreme Court, and did not have definitive yes or no.

The Democrat described it as a “long term question” that’s up to the executive and legislative branches. She added, however, that there is “nothing sacrosanct about nine members” on the bench.

The idea isn’t popular. A new NPR poll – among the first since the Roe decision – found 54%- oppose boosting the number of Supreme Court justices. At the same time, a majority in the same poll, 56%, said they oppose the ruling itself, with 40% in favor.


DA’s DECLINE. District attorneys from around the state, including in Augusta, Athens, Macon and Savannah, said they do not plan to bring prosecutions under H.B. 481.

Athens District Attorney Deborah Gonzalez said in a statement, “I will not be complacent in a system attempting to strip away the rights of American citizens,” she said in a statement.

Chatham County DA Shaleena Cook Jones told The Savannah Morning News, “I plan to exercise my prosecutorial discretion to prosecute those laws and offenses that pose the greatest risk to public safety and public health. So, for example, we need to be focusing on serious violent crime, ending gun violence and gang violence.”

Abortions are not included in those categories, the Morning News noted.

They join several Metro Atlanta DA’s, including Fulton County DA Fani Willis, DeKalb County DA Sherry Boston, and Douglas County DA Dalia Racine, who said after the court decision that they also won’t prioritize violations of H.B. 481.

“I will not be using precious tax dollars allocated to this office to pursue prosecutions based on women’s personal healthcare choices,” Willis said in a statement.


THAT WAS FAST. President Joe Biden on Saturday morning signed the gun safety legislation approved in the U.S. Senate Thursday and the House on Friday.

“At a time when it seems impossible to get anything done in Washington, bipartisan members of Congress and I did something,” Biden said. “The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act will save lives.

The package was negotiated by a bipartisan group of senators in response to high-profile mass shootings in Buffalo and Uvalde. In the end, a total of 29 Republicans in both chambers sided with Democrats on the measure, although none from Georgia.


FREE TO LEAVE. The Libertarian Party of Georgia had a shake up at the end of last week when Ryan Graham stepped down as party chair, effective immediately.

Graham is also running as a Libertarian for lieutenant governor, one of many commitments that have left him overcommitted and underperforming, he wrote in a statement to party members.

“I am unable to focus on any one thing, getting pulled in many different directions,” he wrote. “That has led to many half-completed projects in dire need of attention. For that, I am truly sorry.”

But he also alluded to “getting tired of having to walk on eggshells” navigating fights inside the party itself.

Since intraparty fighting is a specialty of the Jolt, we reached out for more detail, and here’s what Graham told the AJC:

Since our national convention last month, the party has gone through a transformation with all new leadership. With that, there has been a lot of intra-party conflict that I, frankly, don't want to spend my time on. As Chair, I felt myself being dragged into it more often. Stepping back as a leader in the party apparatus will help me keep my focus on my campaign for Lt. Governor and supporting our other candidates across the state.

- Ryan Graham to the AJC


LESSONS LEARNED. We told you after the runoffs about the biggest upset of the cycle so far, when Chris West was outspent 10-to-1 heading into the 2nd District GOP runoff in Southwest Georgia, but defeated rival Jeremy Hunt in the end.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer dug into the numbers and found that while Hunt finished ahead of West in May, 9,070 fewer voters turned out for the West Point Hunt in the June runoff. West, on the other hand, lost only 4,050 votes in June, and even gained in some counties.

David Sumrall, the Bibb County GOP chair, told the Ledger-Enquirer that three of the other candidates in the race endorsing West after the primary had a significant impact. Hunt’s big-name endorsements from outside the state, including Arkansas’ U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, didn’t get the job done.



  • President Joe Biden is in Germany for the G7 Summit where the focus is the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • The House and Senate are on a two-week Fourth of July recess.
  • The Supreme Court could have more landmark rulings coming as soon as today, including a case regarding climate regulation.


DANGEROUS DWELLINGS. Take a listen to today’s special edition of the AJC’s Politically Georgia podcast, when the AJC’s Alan Judd and Willoughby Mariano join the pod to discuss their “Dangerous Dwellings” investigation.

The project investigated low-income housing in the region, including years of homicide data that shows that murders cluster at certain apartment complexes, even while private equity firms make huge profits on the properties.

You can listen and subscribe to the Politically Georgia podcast for free at Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, or Stitcher.


PICTURE THIS. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock had a major publicity blitz this month with his memoir, “A Way out of No Way.” He’ll release his next book, “Put Your Shoes On & Get Ready!” in November.

The illustrated children’s book is about growing up with 11 brothers and sisters -- and the many different shoes he’s worn since his father used to rouse him early in the morning with a, “Put your shoes on!”

The book will publish Nov. 15, a week after Election Day.


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