The Georgia governor’s race this November will greatly impact abortion access in the state. After Roe v. Wade was overturned in June, a controversial abortion ban went into effect in Georgia that bans abortion after fetal cardiac activity is detected. Republican Gov. Brian Kemp, who signed the law, wants to uphold the ban if reelected, while Democratic challenger Stacey Abrams is outspoken in opposing the law and says she would use her veto power to block any future bans.
Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux: Fetuses are now legal people in Georgia. After Roe v. Wade was overturned, the state was able to start enforcing a law that makes it illegal to have an abortion after fetal cardiac activity can be detected, which usually happens around six weeks into a pregnancy. Now, any fetus past that point in pregnancy has an unprecedented set of legal rights. It can be claimed as a dependent on a state tax return, allowing its parents to receive a $3,000 tax exemption months before it’s born. And the mother can even claim child support payments.
A six-week abortion ban is already pretty strict. Many women don’t even know they’re pregnant at six weeks. But Georgia’s abortion laws could get even stricter next year, depending on who wins the governor’s race in November. The state’s legislature is controlled by Republicans and likely will remain so after the midterms. Some of those lawmakers have said they want to ban abortion completely. The governor’s veto could be the only thing standing in their way.
That’s why the Democratic candidate for governor, Stacey Abrams, is trying to make her race against the current Republican governor, Brian Kemp, into a referendum on abortion rights. Abrams thinks abortion should be legal until a fetus can survive outside the womb, with some exceptions afterward. She’s argued that without legal abortion, women aren’t equal to men.
Stacey Abrams: “It is an essential conversation. It is about the freedom of women to direct their lives.”
Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux: She’s also against the fetal personhood laws.
Stacey Abrams: “Granting personhood to an embryo or a fetus means that a woman could likely be charged with murder if something happens.”
Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux: Abrams has promised to work to overturn the six-week ban if she’s in office — which will be a tall order given the makeup of the legislature. But if she’s elected, she could veto future abortion bans.
Kemp, meanwhile, signed the six-week ban when it passed back in 2019, even though Roe v. Wade kept it from going into effect. Here’s what he said when a federal court finally allowed the law to go into effect in July:
Brian Kemp: “Today’s decision by the 11th Circuit affirms our promise to protect life at all stages.”
Amelia Thomson-DeVeaux: On the campaign trail, he’s not really highlighting the issue. Instead, he’s talking more about the economy. And it’s not hard to understand why. A poll conducted by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution in July found that 54 percent of Georgia voters oppose the abortion ban that’s currently in place. And 72 percent of Georgia voters oppose a full abortion ban.
On top of that, 42 percent of Georgia voters say they’re more likely to support a candidate who will protect abortion, while only 26 percent said they’re more likely to support a candidate who will limit abortion.
But even though abortion rights are reshaping races across the country, Abrams is still an underdog. Kemp is favored to win the governor’s race, according to FiveThirtyEight’s forecast, and his odds haven’t really changed since the Supreme Court’s decision in June. That might be because the economic issues Kemp is prioritizing are also higher priorities for people in Georgia. A recent CBS News poll found that voters in Georgia are more likely to say that the economy and inflation are very important issues for their vote, compared to abortion.
So even if Abrams is able to motivate some voters with her support of abortion rights, that issue alone doesn’t seem to be fundamentally changing the dynamics of her race. And if she loses in November, Georgia lawmakers could pass even stricter abortion laws when the legislature returns next year.