Georgia Right to Life issued its endorsements in the Republican race for governor on Thursday – and picked a major fight with former secretary of state Karen Handel, the only woman in the contest.
The anti-abortion group gave five candidates its stamp of approval: state Sen. Jeff Chapman of Brunswick, former congressman Nathan Deal of Gainesville, former state senator Eric Johnson of Savannah, businessman Ray McBerry of McDonough, and state Insurance Commissioner John Oxendine.
But in its press release this afternoon, GRTL placed most of its emphasis on the unendorsed GOP candidate:
“Ms. Handel proclaims herself pro-life; however, she does not meet the 21st century demands of being pro-life.” says Dan Becker, President of GRTL.
“For instance, Handel believes that a child may be aborted based on its manner of conception. When I asked her directly her thoughts on the value of embryos, she answered that she does not believe that an embryonic human is a child.”
Based on Ms. Handel’s own statements, she does not meet the GRTL PAC’s criteria and will not be endorsed in this primary election or the November election, without a change in her positions.
The Handel campaign declared Becker’s statement to be false:
In fact, Karen does believe that an embryonic human is a child. Further, no one ever asked Karen this question, and if they had, they would know this.
GRTL’s real problem with Karen is twofold: First, they disagree with her stance regarding exceptions to an abortion ban in cases of rape and incest.
Secondly, Karen opposes the group’s push to ban invitro fertilization, which has helped so many couples realize their dream of having children. The group has proposed legislation to virtually eliminate invitro.
In a meeting with Karen, the group’s leadership told her directly that fertility treatments are immoral and that their goal is to completely ban the procedure.
Becker, in turn, says that Handel is mischaracterizing his position. The GRTL president says his group has never taken the position that all invitro fertilization is immoral.
But his group has sponsored legislation that would limit the number of embryos produced by fertility clinics to only the number actually implanted in the mother.
It is a restriction opposed by fertility experts, who turned out at the state Capitol in 2009 to block the measure. Handel, too, is against the restrictions, campaign spokesman Dan McLagan said.
From a campaign press release:
“My husband Steve and I tried for nearly ten years to have children. It is the single greatest disappointment in my life, and I can say with certainty that no one in this race cherishes human life more than I do.
“I am saddened that this group would resort to fabricating quotes and distorting my beliefs. I shared very personal information with the group’s leadership, and they are well aware of my true beliefs. I am dismayed and very disappointed by their actions….
“Further, I am absolutely opposed to severely limiting fertility treatments, including invitro fertilization, and am saddened that my opponents appear to.
“Tens of thousands of couples have been able to have children through fertility assistance. Their lives have been blessed by miracle of birth and enriched by the blessings that children uniquely have added to their lives.”
This was the reply from Becker of GRTL on Wednesday afternoon, in a telephone interview:
“Someone’s desperate right to parenthood – because they’re infertile, they’re barren, whatever term you want to use – is an emotionally fraught subject that has our highest sympathy. But it should never be attempted to be addressed where a life is taken in the process.”
The confrontation was not unexpected. The Handel campaign was ready with an endorsement from Adrianne Susong, a former director of Georgia Right to Life.
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