A raw debate over abortion at the state Capitol

The House on Wednesday passed its first major anti-abortion legislation in several years, shrinking the time a woman has to seek the procedure. From my AJC colleague Christopher Quinn:

The legislation, House Bill 954, also would tighten medical exemptions for terminating pregnancies and require any abortion performed after 20 weeks of pregnancy be done in a way to bring the fetus out alive. The measure is commonly referred to as a “fetal pain” bill and says that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks, therefore the state has an interest in protecting it.

The language of the debate was more than emotional. On the GOP side, the central debate is over Georgia Right to Life’s refusal to recognize rape, incest and the life of the mother as exceptions in the abortion debate.

Unlike some national groups, GRTL recognizes only the life of the mother as an exception – and a strict interpretation at that.

In this instance, there was an advantage to being in radio. Audio allows a certain rawness that neither print nor video can capture. Below is the Wednesday report of Parker Wallace of Georgia Public Broadcasting. In the AJC photo below, state Rep. Sharon Cooper, R-Marietta, is pictured with Rep. Allen Peake, R-Macon. Audio used with permission:

- By Jim Galloway, Political Insider

For instant updates, follow me on Twitter, or connect with me on Facebook.

93 comments Add your comment

hiram bronson granbury

February 29th, 2012
10:01 pm

The planet has 6 billion people. The vast majority of them are ignorant beyond belief, and this is manifest by their actions all over the planet, every day, including here in the Georgia legislature.

Charles A. Jones Jr. (Athens)

February 29th, 2012
10:14 pm

I must say I am very disappointed in Mrs. Cooper’s conduct here. What Georgia Right to Life said is that if she voted against the bill they would try to defeat her in the next election. That is not a threat, that is democracy. That’s why we have elections in the first place, so we can vote out people we don’t like.

A threat would be if they had said to her “Vote for this or I’ll have your knees broken.” But to say “Vote for this or I’ll vote against you in the next election,” or “Vote for this or I’ll run against you in the next election” or “Vote for this or I’ll campaign against you in the next election” is completely fair – it is what democracy is all about.

Does Mrs. Cooper believe that she’s entitled to be a Representative for as long as she pleases and never have to answer to the voters? No ma’am you aren’t.

Shoshanna

February 29th, 2012
10:26 pm

Rep Sharon Cooper says that the National Right to Life position supports exceptions for rape and incest. This IS simply NOT true Rep. Cooper.. A call to their national office will confirm this.

She said doctors would be exposed by name when the bill specifically protects their anonymity. How many falsehoods can Rep Cooper get away with and still be “prolife”??

GRTL is right to target this PRINO (Pro-life Republican in Name Only).

Agnes Kravitz

February 29th, 2012
10:29 pm

If this is ALL the Republicans have to do in the State House, its time for them to go home

The Snark

February 29th, 2012
10:31 pm

@ Charles:

“Never have to answer to the voters?” The VOTERS, Charles? She’s being threatened by a single issue special interest group, not “the voters.” The voters are perfectly happy with her stance on the issues, as proven by the fact that they return her to the legislature every couple of years.

Something tells me your definition of “democracy” would change if your representative was threatened by a single issue special interest group you did not approve of.

Cutty

February 29th, 2012
10:36 pm

She represents her constituents, not some advocacy groups. Politicians, republican and democrat, would be wise to remember that.

South Ga

February 29th, 2012
10:56 pm

It sure would be nice to have the democrats back again.

Look before I leap...

February 29th, 2012
10:59 pm

Since only 2% of abortions occur after the 21st week, I am skeptical of the number of “lives” that the bill’s supporters claim will be saved.

The people most likely to have later term abortions are teenagers, victims of rape and incest and those with modest to minimal financial means.

So who is gonna foot the bill for all these children where there is little hope of a stable and financially capable household to care for them?

Shark Punch!

February 29th, 2012
11:19 pm

@ Look before I leap: You need to understand that the ANTI-CHOICE (I refuse to call these people “pro-life” for many reasons) agenda consists of nothing less than a complete and total ban on all abortions whatsoever. But their leaders are smart enough to realize that this won’t happen in one fell swoop, so they chip away at the issue with things like mandatory ultrasounds/counseling, waiting periods, and bills like this one. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about 2% or .02% of all abortions; if they can “save even just one unborn child,” they’ll call it a victory on the way to their greater goal.

td

February 29th, 2012
11:30 pm

Cutty

February 29th, 2012
10:36 pm

She represents her constituents, not some advocacy groups. Politicians, republican and democrat, would be wise to remember that.

Then her constituents will put her back in office. If the voters in her district want to vote on a single issue then that is their business.

td

February 29th, 2012
11:32 pm

South Ga

February 29th, 2012
10:56 pm

It sure would be nice to have the democrats back again

If you want them back then go out and purge your party of the social democrats that want to turn this state into a welfare state and it could happen.

td

February 29th, 2012
11:34 pm

The Snark

February 29th, 2012
10:31 pm

If this single issue does not matter then why are all you so threatened by it? If the voters in her district think she represents them then they will return her to office. If they do not then they are free to vote for a different representative.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.....

February 29th, 2012
11:34 pm

Why do people keep trying to debate exceptions for rape, incest, the life of the mother and high-risk pregnancies in these bills?

These bills aren’t about just preventing late-term elective abortions, they are about preventing ALL late-term abortion whether they are elective, or involve cases of rape, incest, the health of the mother and high-risk pregnancy.

If you are truly against abortion, not only are elective abortions unacceptable, but ALL abortions are unacceptable, which should come as no surprise to supposedly pro-life State Representative Cooper, whose time for knowingly and gleefully straddling the fence between the pro-abortion and anti-abortion camps for personal political gain is quickly drawing to an unceremonial close.

Look before I leap...

February 29th, 2012
11:35 pm

@Shark

I understand the strategy. Nibble around the edges, pass legislation that is likely to get appealed and see what the courts do. The gamble is that SCOTUS is more ideologically conservative now than it has been in the last 50 years and they will abrogate some part of Roe and the finger comes out of the dyke.

In the mean time, thousands of lives are impacted and there are no provisions to handle the aftermath.

So very often, our politicians enact laws to address an issue with absolutely no regard to collateral consequences and create 10 news issues where before, there was only one.

We keep sending these pandering idiots back to office year in and year out and many times based on a single wedge issue like abortion or gay marriage or some other silliness that has little impact overall on the majority of voter’s personal interests.

I don’t know if the stupidity in the local, state and national offices is a reflection of the voters or vice versa.
Either way it is depressing.

Black Conservative

February 29th, 2012
11:35 pm

I wish the legislators were this passionate about the things that really matter: education, traffic congestion, jobs, water…

Charles A. Jones Jr. (Athens)

February 29th, 2012
11:35 pm

Snark: Then there should be no problem, because this interest group is only “threatening” to bring her before the voters and challenge her and urge the voters to put her out. That’s not a threat, that’s democracy.

As I said, a threat is “Vote for this or I’ll break your knees or put a horse’s head in your bed.” Democracy is “Vote for this or I’ll do everything I can to persuade your voters to put you out of office.”

honested

February 29th, 2012
11:35 pm

Once again the GA republican party stoops to pander to it’s lowest common denominator.
Should this pass the Senate and receive a signature, millions of unwilling taxpayers dollars will be wasted to defend this nonsense with a clear loss looming eventually in the Supreme Court.

This is Settled Law for crying out loud. Everywhere this sort of nonsense to chip away at Roe is tried, it fails.

No religious test is required for any woman to seek the medical care she deems appropriate.

Why is it so difficult for you people to take NO for an answer?

In the Air Tonight

February 29th, 2012
11:38 pm

Dear Dan Becker,

I was there, and I saw what you did. I saw it with my own two eyes. You can wipe off that grin, ’cause I know where you been. It’s all been a pack of lies.

You can’t let legislators debate the issue on FACTS. You threaten and bully them. You make it your business to go where it’s none of your business. You slurp power for yourself off the misery of others, but that’s not good enough for you, is it? I saw you. I saw you watching us, sneering, and enjoying every moment. Yeah, that was us: mothers, sisters, and daughters. You know, the women with tears running down our faces during testimony that explains something that YOU will never understand: Love, tragedy, and the choices that women have to make and live with. You scanned each of our faces. You smiled as we choked back sobs, because the testimony spoke to things WE know, but you never will. You enjoyed watching, and I thought, “WHO IS THAT CREEPY GUY WATCHING US AND CHUCKLING?” I could practically SEE the boner you got watching us grow more and more distressed. I know your kind, Dan Becker. There’s a word for it: SADIST. You’re the very worst kind. Ah, but your ego was all too eager to jump in front of that TV camera, right? So tonight, I know who that creepy, icky guy was, licking his lips getting excited watching women cry.

From now on, I’m watching you.

honested

February 29th, 2012
11:39 pm

Black Conservative,

You hit the nail on the head.
One would have to watch all of the hearings so far to hear an occasional peep about education, traffic, jobs or water (aside from the idiocy of building pipes over the mountains from the TN River).

diane

February 29th, 2012
11:39 pm

Also harmed are those who discover fetal deformities or have other health issues after week 20. See Jay Bookman’s column today. This is a shameful intrusion of government into the legal, constitutionally protected private decisions of women and their doctors. Get the government out of my uterus.

honested

February 29th, 2012
11:40 pm

In The Air….

I think you pretty much summed up the whole anti-choice crowd.

td

February 29th, 2012
11:48 pm

This is not settled law and the SCOTUS has been chipping away at the issue for about the last 10 years. The whole problem is this issue was forced upon the nation by a SC decision instead of going through the legislative process to begin with. If a state or the Federal government wants abortions legal then you supporters should stand up and demand your representatives to stand up, sponsor a bill and have the gut to debate and vote on the issue. The voters will then decide if the murder of the unborn should be legal or not.

honested

February 29th, 2012
11:53 pm

td,

The ‘voters’ have been pretty clear about this for quite a long time, as exemplified by the current law.
This is just another example of a bunch of religiously oriented kooks who have never been able to accept THEY CAN’T ENFORCE THEIR DISTORTED BELIEFS ON THE REST OF US.

If you don’t ‘believe’ in abortion, please don’t have one.
Otherwise, shut up and get out of the way.

Shar

March 1st, 2012
12:05 am

@ Black Conservative: If it is your body that the government is trying to control, it is damn important.

Becker, if you don’t believe that abortion is moral, don’t have one. But don’t get between a woman and her doctor, a woman and her own conscience, and keep your cheezy threats to yourself. Representatives answer to their constituents, not to one-issue thugs with the insane light of total righteousness in their eyes and no respect for anyone else’s opinion.

This continued assault on women’s heath by white male Republicans is appalling. How ’bout no treatment for prostate cancer after 20 weeks, or mandatory castration if an unwanted child is conceived? Let’s mandate that a man’s doctor has to tell him lies, force him to have unwanted and unnecessary tests – and pay for them – and make him wait before any procedure at all is authorized. And if his life is at stake, that’s just too damn bad.

Look before I leap...

March 1st, 2012
12:10 am

@Shar

An even easier law to write:
If the state wants intrude on reproductive rights, then make it a level playing field for both genders.

A man must have written, notarized consent from his wife or significant other before a Viagra prescription can be written.

Ok I'll play along

March 1st, 2012
12:25 am

@Look before…that would turn Georgia into a “blue” state for sure. I for one am tired of the hey, “we men know what’s best for all involved.” This country is based on choices and this is another one. I don’t know a single person who would deliver a child knowing it was a product of rape or incest. I’m sure those folks are out there but ultimately it should be up to the women to decide. Rethuglicans simply have control issues.

Ted

March 1st, 2012
12:31 am

And the point is what?

lefty_316

March 1st, 2012
12:32 am

With each passing year I become more and more convinced that it’s time for the GOP to split into two distinct parties. One cannot be both a social and fiscal conservative and the goals of the two are completely at odds. The religious (social) conservatives are determined to do whatever they can to curtail and eventually eliminate abortion. That is fiscal liberalism. On the other hand we true fiscal conservatives realize that keep a legal and safe medical procedure widely available is in the best interest of all American taxpayers. In a perfect world abortion would never need to be an option, I suppose, but we live in the real world, not a perfect world.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.....

March 1st, 2012
12:46 am

The people in charge of government (in this case, the conservatives who dominate Georgia state government) reserve the “right” or privilege to restrict and deter the public from access to a procedureor practice that they do not look upon favorably, which in this case is abortion.

But who are we kidding, the passage and debate of this bill isn’t really about abortion and reproductive rights.

This debate IS about distracting the public from the pursuit of restrictions on lobbyist money and gifts to members of the Georgia General Assembly which do not currently exist and what better way to throw-off the gaining forces of the Tea Party and government watchdogs than to ignite a fiery debate about an explosive and volatile emotional social issue such as abortion.

This effort to further restrict abortion also helps the bill’s sponsor, Democrat turn Republican Doug McKillip win a ton of brownie points with the political base of his new political party and put on a much-needed exhibition of his before unbeknownst conservative bonafides so as to increase his chances to advance through his first Republican primary.

Any questions about McKillip’s conservative bonafides have taken a backseat with his sponsorship of a bill to outlaw late-term abortions in all situations, even in cases of rape, incest, the life of the mother and high-risk pregnancies.

This effort also helps to turnout social and religious conservatives in the general election who may have been growing reluctant to come out, vote and support Republicans in November after what has seemingly been a major slide in awareness of social issues with no major anti-abortion legislation being passed in the Georgia General Assembly in many years and communities now being able to vote to approve Sunday sales of alcohol.

If you are a social conservative, what has been a very dissapointing period on social issues suddenly looks a lot more promising with the advancement of the bill to outlaw late-term abortions with no exceptions.

If you are a conservative, this is what you’ve been looking for from a Republican-dominated Georgia General Assembly. No more compromising on social issues, just lining up, picking a smashmouth political fight with the other side, firing up your base and winning a key battle in the culture war.

Shar

March 1st, 2012
12:52 am

@Look: Viagara was immediately accepted onto the Medicare and Medicaid prescription approval lists, meaning for all intents and purposes that it was accepted by insurers as well. So women have to pay taxes that underwrite Viagara, but we are still waiting for coverage for women’s birth control. As the recent brouhaha over this illustrates, the social conservatives cannot tolerate anything that allows a woman to have control over her own sexuality – a woman who wants to use contraception is a slut and unworthy of taxpayer assistance in keeping from becoming pregnant, but if she does conceive then she must be forced to carry to term – and then she’s a welfare queen. And who gets trotted out to pronounce judgement? A panel of men, one of whom is a Catholic bishop who perpetuates a code of female submission and protects his fellow priests who rape young children. This is the person from whom women must take moral pronouncements? WHAT?

Permission for a Viagara scrip is not similar. Any male who, by DNA, is found to have conceived a child he is not willing to risk his life and health to nurture, who resists putting his life and priorities on old for 18 years at minimum, who will not devote himself to raising said child regardless of economic, social, professional, personal and all other considerations, must have a permanent life-altering punishment. Castration will teach him a lesson, and ensure that he never does it again.

Jeff Sexton

March 1st, 2012
3:26 am

I find it funny that any legislator is afraid of GRTL. They have about as much political influence as *I* do these days – which isn’t much. Becker and his bunch are a bunch of crazies that would rather endorse a man who admits to allegations of “sexual or sexually inappropriate relationships with underage girls” than actually protect those same girls from such a man.

Will the last Democrat in Georgia please turn off the lights?.....

March 1st, 2012
4:13 am

Jeff Sexton

March 1st, 2012
3:26 am

“I find it funny that any legislator is afraid of GRTL. They have about as much political influence as *I* do these days – which isn’t much. Becker and his bunch are a bunch of crazies that would rather endorse a man who admits to allegations of “sexual or sexually inappropriate relationships with underage girls” than actually protect those same girls from such a man.”

They also sound like a bunch of crazies that would force the underage girls that he admitted to having inappropriate relationships with to carry any pregnancy that resulted from those sickening interactions to term.

Now I’m not all that crazy about the practice or procedure of abortion, but outlawing them even in cases of rape, incest, protecting the life of the mother and high-risk pregnancies is just a tad bit extreme for my political taste.

But if it distracts from the issue of ethics in government, makes more work for lawyers in what is likely to be an expensive and lengthy court challenge and keeps the annual crazy train that is the Georgia General Assembly happily pushing this state towards a really bad end off-the-rails far from anything that remotely resembles economic prosperity, then I’m all for it.

Remember, election year wedge social issues that distract the populace from constructive legislative ethics reform: GOOD!

Issues that are remotely of any type of substance to the health and well-being of the citizens of this state: BAD!

As long as you remember that, you’ll have great success in Georgia politics.

Now, where was I? Oh yeah, I was talking about God, gays, guns, abortion and contraception while completely forgetting how to even spell the word “effix” (ethics).

rawmilkdrinker

March 1st, 2012
5:18 am

Boost the European travel industry by outlawing all abortions. The well to do wives, girlfriends, mistresses, and daughters will take more suddenly planned extended vacations to France, Denmark, and such. I guess the po’ folks will have to stick to coathangers, drain cleaner and falling down the stairs.

Attack Dog

March 1st, 2012
5:46 am

Georgia is already a welfare State. If women in this State want to drop back to being third class citizens, keep voting for Dixiecrats or not voting at all.

crankee_yankee

March 1st, 2012
6:03 am

You get what you vote for…

Willis

March 1st, 2012
6:14 am

These are the same hypocrites who complain about “too much government” yet they want to intrude in the most personal way in what people choose to do with their own personal health decisions.

seabeau

March 1st, 2012
6:43 am

This story highlights the ,”Liberals Great Moral Dilemma, The Murder of the Innocents and Pardoning of the Murders.” Their support of Abortion and their Anti-Catital Punishment stance tells us that they are moral cowards who ignore the blood on their hands when they are not faced with the deed itself.

Edward Ruffin

March 1st, 2012
6:52 am

If rape or incest creates a child why is that child less important than a child created in the traditional, or “normal” way? Please tell me. And by the way, it isn’t about a woman’s body, it is about a defenseless child. I could care less if a woman pierces her body, gets a tattoo, or jumps off a bridge, it isn’t about her, it is about the child.

- Georgia Pundit

March 1st, 2012
6:56 am

[...] President Dan Becker threatened political retaliation to members who voted no. Jim Galloway has more at the AJC: The language of the debate was more than emotional. On the GOP side, the central debate is over [...]

Laurie

March 1st, 2012
7:04 am

So when women start dying because they can’t terminate a pregnancy that threatens their health, do you think those “right to lifers” will be sorry? Hardly. I hope every person who voted for this bill loses a duaghter or granddaughter to their own stupidity in regards to this bill, and all women should close their legs until our male dominated legislature pulls their collective head out of their backside.

Truth Today

March 1st, 2012
7:22 am

Every person who voted to place these Rupublicans in office have contributed to the threat women are facing to their right to address their healthcare needs as desired. Abortion is an issue that does not belong in the political arena. Republicans say shrink the government in one dialog and then expand overreach of the government when it pertains to women’s right. No, I do not belief and support abortion. However, I do not believe and support the position that men or women should dictate to another what he or she can do to her or his own body regardless of the consequences. I just don’t believe in hypocrisy which is so obvious with conservative ideology as it pertains to small government and women’s rights. Oddly enough, while they try to hinder women’s rights, their wives and daughters continue to obtain abortions. Shrink government or expand government? Which will the Republicans have. They cant have it both ways.

Bobby

March 1st, 2012
7:36 am

Isn’t it amazing that the same party that claims they want less government intrusion in our lives adds more intrusion. And even more amazing that it’s men who want to tell women what to do with their bodies. And since the vast majority of abortions between 20 and 26 weeks entail fetuses without brains or limbs, I wonder if the Georgia GOP will fund the medical care for these pregnancies once they are taken to full term.

Double Zero Eight

March 1st, 2012
7:43 am

Like it or not, abortions are legal in the United States.
With that being said, our legislature is spending too
much time on this topic.

One Old Woman

March 1st, 2012
7:47 am

I don’t believe this fight is to distract voters from ethics or any other topic that’s currently up for debate. I believe THOSE issues were a distraction in the hopes that they could pass this incredibly stupid bill without many people noticing.

[...] anti-abortion debate is alive and well with House Bill 954.  A commenter on Political Insider summed up my thoughts on this. “I [...]

homeschooler

March 1st, 2012
7:55 am

I’ve always considered myself pro-choice. We’ve gone the abortion is illegal route this country with dire consequences. However, do you all realized what a BABY looks like at 20 weeks?? There are babies born at 23 weeks who survive. There has to be a limit to how late we can allow this and right now that limit is too high.
I worked a case once at DFCS with a 16 yr old girl who disclosed when she ws 26 weeks pregnant that her father was the baby’s dad. They aborted that child. Meanwhile I was working a case with a drug addict who gave birth at 25 weeks and the baby was kept alive (and ultimately thrived) I had the hardest time thinking of that aborted baby. I knew he was the at the same size and development as the other child. He could have lived. Why was it okay to kill him at an age when he could have survived outside the womb? Yes, I understood that it was traumatizing for that girl to carry the baby to term, but at what point was it NOT okay to kill the child?? If she had been 28 weeks, 32 weeks they said she would have had to carry him to term. Why not just move that date forward to a time when the baby could totally not survive. I can’t see how anybody educated and open minded with any sort of compassion can think it is okay to kill that child.
I’m all for legislation against late abortions. Most woman find out they are pregnant around 2-4 weeks. There is plenty of time to abort before the baby has even developed into a baby. In cases of a problem with the fetus, abnormalities are almost always discovered at 20 weeks, in time to abort under the new law. I know the pro-life people will jump all over me for those last two statements but I try to be rational and sensible.

Tom

March 1st, 2012
8:08 am

I think medical technolgy and advances make the 20-week parameter pretty reasonable now, but there still needs to be exceptions under specific circumstances as to be determined by the proper medical professionals and the mother. Hopefully, the Senate will pay attention to those actually educated in these matters and amend the bill accordingly.

It’s hard to argue for the repeal of legislation that injects government into both the doctor-patient relationship and the marketplace of private insurance while looking to legislate the same type of interference in regard to this specific medical procedure.

No Longer Republican

March 1st, 2012
8:11 am

Republicans love the fetus and hate the child. They will fight like crazy to stop abortion, but once the unwanted child is born to a mother who cannot support it, they will cut unemployment benefits, cut food stamps, deny healthcare, etc. @ Ed, if it is about the child, why not help the children in Georgia who live in such dire poverty 24/7? These holier than thou morons make me sick when they do this crap because they sit on their church pews and judge everybody else and never lend a hand to these people who desperately need help.
Attention women in Georgia…you are not important enough to your Georgia Legislator to have your life protected. Instead your legislator is concerned about appeasing the men who run GRTL and their faithful church members. Some of the most ruthless people on earth…

Rural Georgian

March 1st, 2012
8:12 am

I was at the Capitol yesterday and listened to the entire debate. What bothers me about the bill is that if a woman finds out, say in her 25th week, that the baby in her womb hasn’t formed a brain, then she’d have to carry that child to term… What about that is humane, for the woman of the child?

After reading the bill, it is also unclear to me whether a woman whose baby dies in her womb after the 20th week could procedurally have the fetus removed, or would be left to pass the fetus naturally.

God gives us life, and God gives us common sense. I think we’d all benefit if the more people used the later during the former. This bill should have been amended or failed.

Rural Georgian

March 1st, 2012
8:13 am

*for the woman OR the child?