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What Happened Last Week in the Senate

Last Friday (March 22, 2019), the State Senate passed a committee substitute to HB 481 by a party-line vote of 34 to 18 following an emotional and gut-wrenching four-hour debate early Friday evening.

HB 481 is the six-week abortion ban that stands criminalize women and physicians. The bill would ban abortions once a “fetal heartbeat” is detected at six weeks, a point when many women have not yet determined they are pregnant, and thus would essentially outlaw all abortions in Georgia. Current Georgia law, already one of the nation’s most restrictive, allows abortions until 20 weeks.

The WIN List endorsed women Senators, both those who are newly-elected and those who have served for many years, made us proud as they spoke from the heart with determination, eloquence, and poise.

What To Expect in the House

Make no mistake, these next steps will be carefully choreographed by House leadership in collaboration with the Governor’s office. Passage of the “nation’s strictest abortion law” was a campaign promise for Governor Brian Kemp.

The next step in the legislative process for HB 481 is a vote on whether the House “agrees/disagrees” to the changes made in the Senate’s substitute bill. This action could come at any moment and will not require further House committee consideration or placement on the House calendar by the Rules Committee.

The call for Agreement of the substitute HB 481 bill could happen in a matter of minutes when a House member, most likely the bill’s sponsor Rep. Ed Setzler, stands in the well and asks House members to “agree to the Senate Substitute to House Bill 481.”

A quick vote in favor will send the bill straight to the desk of Governor Brian Kemp, who has lobbied heavily with Republicans for passage of the bill.

If the House Disagrees

In the unlikely event the House votes to “disagree” with the Senate substitute HB 481 bill or amends the Senate version of the bill in some fashion, a complex series of legislative maneuvers will begin.

A “conference committee” would be formed to work out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill. The committee report would need to be approved again in both the House and Senate before transmission to the Governor for a signature.

If this scenario begins to unfold, given the few days left before Sine Die, final approval of the bill could drag on even to the final hours of the 2019 Session on April 2.

If HB 481 Passes in Both Chambers

A signature by Governor Kemp will immediately set off a court challenge The ACLU has already pledged to file suit if the bill becomes law. In other states, bills similar to or less restrictive than HB 481 have already been overturned by Federal Court order.

HB 481 has an effective date of January 1, 2020. This means that if the bill were to pass before Sine Die, no changes would go into effect until this date.

It generally takes years for such court action to land in the Supreme Court. It’s no secret the Republicans supporting this bill are aiming for the Supreme Court, in the hopes of overturning Roe v. Wade.


Five Ways to Take Action

1. Contact House Speaker David Ralston & House Leadership

HB 481 can be called to the House floor at any moment for an “agree/disagree” vote. As Speaker of the House, Rep. Ralston has the authority to stop HB 481 from being called to the floor for a vote.

2. Contact your House Rep

Republican or Democrat, be sure your elected representative in the State House knows where you stand on HB 481 and why you think he/she should vote NO/Disagree. You can locate the office number and email address for your Representative, as well as the others here:

http://bit.ly/WINList-GaGovHouseReps

Do not take a Democrat Representative for granted! There was one Democrat in the House who voted in favor of HB 481 the first time around. He needs to be reminded that he will have a primary opponent if he votes with Republicans again.

3. Contact All Vulnerable Republican House Reps

There are many members of the House who barely won against Democratic challengers, some of them WIN List endorsed women, in 2018. They need to hear the “We’re coming for your seat!” message loud and clear.

  • Rep. Deborah Silcox (HD 52 – Sandy Springs)
    • 404.656.3949
    • deborah.silcox@house.ga.gov
    • NOTE: Rep. Silcox was the lone Republican who voted against HB 481 during the last vote. While she clearly supports an abortion ban, she listened to her constituents and medical professionals when casting her vote. When contacting her, be sure to thank her for listening to her constituents and voting no. Encourage her to do the same when HB 481 comes up again in the House.
  • Rep. Heath Clark (HD 147 – Warner Robbins)
  • Rep. Brett Harrell (HD 106 – Snellville)
  • Rep. David Clark (HD 98 – Buford)
  • Rep. Dale Rutledge (HD 109 – McDonough)
    • 404.656.0254
    • dale.rutledge@house.ga.gov
    • NOTE: Be sure to remind Rutledge that he only won in 2019 by approx. 800 votes. There are already several Democratic women planning to run against him in 2020.
  • Rep. Sharon Cooper (HD 43 – Marietta)
    • 404.656.5069
    • sharon.cooper@house.ga.gov
    • NOTE: Many constituents have reported that Cooper is a NO vote on HB 481. Do not stop contacting her until the final vote is cast. Be sure to remind Cooper that she narrowly won in 2018 and her Democratic opponent has already announced for 2020.
  • Rep. Ron Stephens (HD 164 – Savannah)
  • Rep. Bonnie Rich (HD 97 – Suwanee)
  • Rep. Chuck Martin (HD 49 – Alpharetta)
    • 404.656.5064
    • chuck@martinforgeorgia.com
    • NOTE: Martin’s constituents have reported that he has issues with the bill. While we’re not sure what those issues are, his office is taking a tally on all calls received.
  • Rep. Houston Gaines (HD 117 – Athens)
    • 404.656.0325
    • houston.gaines@house.ga.gov
    • NOTE: This seat was previously held by WIN List endorsed Deborah Gonzalez. Gaines narrowly won in 2018; he should expect tough competition in 2020 and a vote against women will hardly be seen as “too nice to be a threat.”
  • Rep. Gerald Greene (HD 151 – Cuthbert)
    • 404.656.5105
    • gerald.greene@house.ga.gov
    • NOTE: HD 151 includes Randolph County where the Board of Elections attempted to close all but one voting precinct. HD 151 was also the race where Rep. Greene almost lost to WIN List endorsed candidate Joyce Barlow. She’s running again in 2020.
  • Rep. Marcus Wiedower (HD 119 – Watkinsville)
  • Rep. Chuck Efstration (HD 104 – Dacula)

4. Call all House Republicans Who are Wavering

We’ve received reports that these House Republicans are tallying up calls and are currently wavering on how they’ll vote.

5. Business Owners Speak Up

If you are a business owner, please join the other 100’s of small business owners and notable executives in opposition to HB 481.

We need you to speak up against HB 481 and sign this petition: http://bit.ly/WINList-BizAgainstHB481


In case you are in need of motivation, here are the 34 GOP Senators who voted to criminalize women and abortions in Georgia last week. Does this group represent you or the state you live in? Should these men get to decide what women can – or can’t do – with their bodies?

The 34 GOP Senators who voted to criminalize women and abortions in Georgia.

Help us #FundTheFlips for 2020

We started working towards 2020 as soon as the 2018 elections were over.

Your donation–whether it is $20 or $250–will help us recruit, train and elect the progressive women who will claim all the seats of GOP House members who vote against women today.

As Senator Sally Harrell said in her speech last week…

Chip in today to help women claim the seats of Republicans who vote against women!


Helpful Talking Points

To make your objections to HB 481 heard, make phone calls until voicemail boxes are full. Then, switch to e-mails. Or do both simultaneously.

Talking points for your phone calls and e-mails include the following:

1. Medical Community Opposes HB 481

Members of the medical community overwhelmingly oppose HB 481. Medical professionals spoke in opposition to the bill during House and Senate committee hearings and medical professionals have diligently worked the “rope lines” to voice opposition to the bill.

The House approved HB 481 before letters of opposition from various medical groups were released. These groups include The Medical Association of Georgia, Georgia Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics, Georgia Association of Family Practitioners, the Midwives Association and a petition from a group of 300 medical students & residents.

The Georgia Medical Association (which includes 8,000 members) has come out in strong opposition to this bill. Over 88% of OBGYNs surveyed regarding HB 481 said they would consider leaving Georgia if this bill passed. With more than half of our 159 counties without an OBGYN, this bill further threatens and alienates our moms and babies.

2. HB 481 is Bad for Business

As outlined in a March 22, 2019 letter signed by more than 100 business leaders, HB 481 is bad for business and bad for Georgia. The letter reads in part:

“Businesses and employees choose their location based on where they will feel safe and free to make the best decisions for themselves. Bodily autonomy is a baseline issue for Georgia’s economy to grow. Women – who are half of the state’s workforce – must have access to the healthcare services they need. Without access to baseline healthcare, women would have justifiable cause to look elsewhere for employment, harming Georgia’s ability to recruit and retain talented workers.”

“Georgia already faces a real health care crisis, including the worst maternal mortality rate in the nation, which is four times higher for black women than white women. Over half of Georgia’s counties do not even have an OB/GYN. This bill would exacerbate serious problems, creating more barriers to healthcare and driving doctors away from Georgia. This bill would worsen our provider shortage, access to internal care, and maternal mortality rates.”

3. HB 481 is Unconstitutional

HB 481 is patently unconstitutional. The ACLU has already announced plans to challenge the law when and if it is signed by Governor Brian Kemp. A similar Kentucky bill was recently blocked by Federal court order just hours after the governor’s signature. The court challenge will be expensive and Republicans ignored Democratic requests for cost estimates for such a court fight. In fact, in some states, the state government has been forced to reimburse legal expenses for groups who challenge these bills.

4. Government Regulations on Women’s Bodies

This heading alone should stop anyone in their tracks. HB 481 would remove a woman’s bodily autonomy and place government regulations between a woman and her medical professionals. This is not acceptable.


What’s Next

We will continue to keep members of our WIN List network as informed as possible at each step of the process. Our best bet is that HB 481 dies on Sine Die, but we doubt the Republicans will allow that to happen without a fight.

We thank you for everything you’re doing to fight back against HB 481.


We’re Coming for Their Seats in 2020

We need your help today to recruit and train the Democratic women who will challenge these GOP representatives in 2020. The only way we can stop all of this nonsense is to elect more women to our state legislature.

Chip in $20 or more today to help us elect as many progressive, Democratic women as possible in 2020!

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