A poll released Friday, the same day the Georgia State Senate voted to approve one of the nation’s strictest abortion laws in the nation, indicates that, among those polled, restrictions on abortion beyond the current law are not overwhelmingly supported.
House Bill 481 is sponsored by State Representative Ed Setzler and was carried by Senator Renee Unterman in the state senate. The bill seeks to ban abortions at 6 weeks, or when a heartbeat is usually detected, a strong shift from the current law of 20 weeks. HB 481 provides exceptions in the event of rape or incest if a police report is filed as well in an effort to save the life of the mother, it includes the unborn in the state population count, and provides a tax deduction for those in the womb by declaring them ‘dependent minors’ under the Georgia code.
Opponents of the bill have said the measure “would outlaw abortion before most women even know they’re pregnant,” and while Republicans overwhelmingly supported the measure, it passed narrowly in the State House with only three votes to spare. Others have questioned whether or not the measure will withstand a constitutional challenge after heartbeat bills in Ohio, Kentucky, and Iowa have all been blocked by the courts. The Arkansas move to 12 weeks was also overturned by the courts, causing the legislature to revisit the issue and work to move to 16 weeks instead. The courts reference the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which prohibits states from limiting abortion in the first trimester.
The polling released Friday was conducted in swing districts across Georgia, including House districts 43, 49, 97, 98, 106, 109, 117, 119, 128, 147, 151, and 164 from March 20-21, 2019. (That includes House seats currently held by Reps Sharon Cooper, Chuck Martin, Bonnie Rich, David Clark, Brett Harrell, Dale Rutledge, Houston Gaines, Marcus Wiedower, Mack Jackson, Heath Clark, Gerald Greene, and Ron Stephens.)
Jackson is the sole Democrat who voted in favor of the heartbeat bill while Cooper, Harrell, Martin, Stephens did not vote on the measure.
From the press release issued by NARAL Friday:
Public Policy Polling shows that a majority of Georgia voters think abortion should be legal:
69% of Georgians, nearly 7 in 10, believe abortion should be legal and that the government should not prevent a woman from making the decision whether or not to have an abortion for herself.
This includes a majority of voters across all parties, with 86% of Democrats, 69% of independents, and 52% of Republicans who believe abortion should be legal.
56% of Georgia voters (a 2-to-1 margin) say they are less likely to vote for their elected officials in the next election if they support legislation to criminalize abortion and jail doctors.
83% of Georgians who attend church or worship services a few times a month, and 59% who attend church or worship services every week believe abortion should be legal, and that the government should not prevent a woman from making that decision for herself.
The full PDF of the release is at the bottom of the article.
NARAL Pro-Choice State Director Laura Simmons also said Friday:
“Let’s be very clear: HB 481 is a grave threat to the lives and safety of Georgians. Period. Gov. Kemp and the GOP are using our lives as a bargaining chip to try to fulfill the promises they made to their extreme base on the campaign trail. And all the while, Kemp and Republicans have turned a blind eye to the women and families dying each day due to growing healthcare crisis in our state, including the worst maternal mortality epidemic in the country. Their lack of compassion for women, families across Georgia tells you what you need to know about their so called “pro-life” and “pro-family” values. The majority of Georgians know accessing abortion is a decision that is best left to a woman in consultation with her doctors, her family, and her faith, free from government interference. NARAL members will not stand by quietly as our rights are traded away so Kemp can stay in good graces with his GOP friends.”
Democrat State Director Nikema Williams, who is also a state senator, released a statement saying:
“With today’s vote, Georgia Republicans chose once again to betray our state’s women, doctors, and future by letting extremism come before the health and bodily autonomy of Georgia women. These senators heard from medical providers, advocates, and their own constituents that banning abortion in Georgia will literally threaten women’s lives, and Republicans are willfully ignoring the consequences. We are coming for their seats – and they should be afraid.”
Meanwhile, Governor Kemp has held steady in his support of the measure and has said he will sign the bill into law when it reaches his desk.
“Today, the State Senate affirmed Georgia’s commitment to life and the rights of the innocent unborn. I applaud the members who supported the heartbeat bill’s passage for protecting the vulnerable and giving a voice to those who cannot yet speak for themselves,” said Governor Kemp. “I look forward to working with the House to ensure this legislation’s final passage in the coming days.”
House Bill 481 must first go back to the House so that the lower chamber can approve the changes made in the Senate before it goes to Kemp for signature.