Top Georgia Democrats take different paths on abortion limits

Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams have both pledged to protect abortion rights as part of their campaigns. Abrams, however, would limit the right to the procedure "until a physician determines the fetus is viable outside of the body." Warnock has not indicated support for any limits. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

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Democratic U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Georgia Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams have both pledged to protect abortion rights as part of their campaigns. Abrams, however, would limit the right to the procedure "until a physician determines the fetus is viable outside of the body." Warnock has not indicated support for any limits. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images/TNS)

Credit: TNS

U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock and Stacey Abrams have each put a pledge to protect abortion rights at the heart of their November campaigns. But the two Democrats are taking different approaches to how they would do so.

Abrams said in an interview that if elected governor she would push legislation to protect the right to an abortion before the point of fetal viability, which is considered to be about 23 weeks into a pregnancy.

Warnock, by contrast, didn’t take a position when pressed on whether he’d support any limits to abortion if there’s a new legislative push to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade.

Asked his stance after a campaign rally in Dalton, the first-term Democrat stressed that he wants to focus on the fallout of the Supreme Court’s decision that eliminated the constitutional right to the procedure.

“In one fell swoop, this core constitutional protection of women and their rights has been undone by extremist right-wing judges who have ignored precedent,” he said. “And now we have politicians in the patient’s room rather than women and their doctors.”

Both Democrats have come under attack from Republicans who claim they are willing to support late-term abortions. The Democrats, in turn, expect the ruling to mobilize voters outraged by the court’s decision.

Abrams’ remarks offered the most detail yet of her plans to scuttle Georgia’s anti-abortion law, which restricts abortions as early as six weeks. That’s before many women know they’re pregnant.

“My intention is going to be to pass legislation that says a woman has the right to an abortion,” she said. “And that right continues until a physician determines the fetus is viable outside of the body, except in the case of protecting the woman’s life or health.”

She steered clear of including a specific time limit because of the ever-changing science around fetal care, adding that abortion access “has to be a medical decision, not a political decision.”

Like Warnock, Abrams also wants to train attention on Republican policies, in this case what she described as Gov. Brian Kemp’s “extreme and dangerous ban.” But she said she felt a need to sharpen her stance without committing to a specific time limit in her proposal.

“We have to set the conditions, but we cannot use timelines to determine whether a medical decision can be made to save the life and health of a woman,” she said. “It has to be a medical decision, not a political decision.”

Republicans also have differing approaches. Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Herschel Walker supports a total ban on abortion, even in cases of rape, incest or when the life of the woman is at stake. It’s a once-fringe GOP position that has now become more mainstream among state Republicans.

Kemp hasn’t gone as far, though he’s facing pressure from conservative politicians and advocates to take more aggressive steps to outlaw the procedure.

The governor has said he personally supports banning abortion with an exception only if the life of the mother is at stake. But his aides say he’s determined to implement the 2019 law, which was temporarily blocked by a federal ruling but is expected to take effect within weeks.

Democrats are intent on making their Republican rivals regret their anti-abortion stances. Warnock referred to Walker’s pledge to enact a “total” ban with a biting attack.

“We’re in a dangerous place because we’re hearing from extremist politicians who would even undermine the ability of women to make their choices in cases of rape, incest and even when a woman’s life is on the line,” Warnock said.