Meet Stacey Abrams.
As Georgia’s House minority leader, Abrams is one of the few things standing between the women of Georgia and some of the strangest and most awful antiabortion laws we’ve ever seen. Happily, she’s also “the smartest person in the Georgia legislature,” according Leola Reis, vice president for external affairs at Planned Parenthood Southeast in Atlanta. Since she’s been in office, she’s been quick and vocal in explaining how a string of proposed abortion restrictions would affect women.
Abrams has her hands full. Especially today, which is “crossover day,” the last day a bill can move from either the Georgia House or Senate into the other chamber. From the way Georgia political veterans tell it, anything can happen. I believe them.
After all, the state has already brought us a bill that would allow women who miscarry to be prosecuted. Under that gem, sponsored by Rev. Bobby Franklin, women who have miscarriages and are unable to prove there was no “human involvement” could face felony charges and life in prison.
The only comfort I have in thinking about this ridiculous provision is that, were it to ever become law, I’m pretty sure the woman I know who has experienced nine miscarriages—each more devastating than the one before it—would personally track down Franklin and shred him.
The good news is that Franklin’s proposal, which is blatantly unconstitutional, would outlaw all abortions as well as IVF, and has been proposed to no effect in previous years, has virtually no chance of passing.
The bad news is that while many of us have been spending precious time and energy pondering it, abortion opponents in Georgia have been cooking up other bizarre bills, some of which now have far better chances of succeeding than Franklin’s.
Enter Georgia State Senator Barry Loudermilk, the author of what may be the strangest antiabortion bill to come out of Georgia yet, which is really saying something. I’ve been calling his most recent proposal the sue-if-you’re-displeased-with-her-choice bill. (It doesn’t have a better name yet, since, as far as I can tell, it’s the first of its kind to reach a legislative body.)
Loudermilk’s bill, which is being considered today, would allow a woman—or the members of her own family, including an abusive husband—to file a wrongful death lawsuit against a doctor who has performed an abortion. The bill spells out that the damages for the wrongful death of the fetus would be equal to those for an adult person. And it would allow the suits even if the doctors involved followed all laws regarding abortion and if the women involved don’t consent to the suit. [Editor's note: Loudermilk's bill, SB 210, passed through Georgia's senate in the evening of March 16, and now moves to the state's House.]
Loudermilk is the same legislator who recently did a bait-and-switch at a hearing at which legislators were supposed to be considering a fetal pain bill and suddenly found themselves considering a bill that would have shut all abortion clinics in the state by requiring that all abortions be performed in hospitals.
That bill, thankfully, was tabled. But just in time for Crossover Day, he’s come up with the sue-if-you’re-displeased bill, something he managed to get passed out of the Senate’s rules committee only by getting some freshman representative who isn’t on the committee and had no idea what he was talking about to be present so he could have a quorum. The bill then went on to the next step of the legislative process with only a few minutes of discussion.
Here’s hoping that Georgia legislators will soon give it a lengthier review and stop it from going further.
These days, there seems to be an overabundance of guys like Franklin and Loudermilk, who push the legislative envelope to inflict their vision on women. (Here, just for fun, I’m making them so tiny you can barely see their ties.)
But, over the past weeks, I’ve also been watching amazing legislators push back against this wave of extremists. So, since this is my last post on the subject for now, I want to end by recognizing just a few: Texas Representative Sheila Jackson Lee, who challenged Arizona Representative Trent Frank’s statement that pro-choice legislators support “killing children;” Wisconsin Democrat Gwen Moore, who testified about becoming a mother at 18; and California’s Jacky Speier, who spoke about the end of her own pregnancy.
There are, thankfully, many more, including some who will surely fight back in this afternoon’s hearing on the Smith and Pitts bills in the House Ways and Means Committee. So, to them, Stacey Abrams and everyone else taking on the wackos for the rest of us, thanks. And happy crossover day!