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WHAT’S HAPPENED SO FAR

Last week, Lt. Gov. Geoff Duncan appointed Senator William Ligon (R-Brunswick) to the Senate Science and Technology committee as an “ex-officio” member. This appointment stacked the committee’s deck in the Republicans’ favor, pitting three Republican men against two Democratic women. This was Lt. Gov. Duncan’s way to ensure HB 481, the abortion ban bill which essentially outlaw abortions in Georgia after 6 weeks, would be approved by the committee.

After listening to several hours of public testimony last Thursday, the committee reconvened on Monday (March 18, 2019) at 8:00 a.m. to vote on a Senate committee substitute to the original version of HB 481.

The votes were split down both party and gender lines. Three men (all Republicans) voted to approve the Senate committee version of the bill while two women (both Democrats) voted against the bill. Senator Renee Unterman did not cast a vote. As chair of the Senate Science and Technology committee, Senator Unterman is only obligated to vote on the measure if there was a tie.

Senator Jen Jordan serves on the Senate Science & Technology Committee

WHAT’S NEXT?

The Senate was in recess Tuesday (March 19, 2019) and again on Wednesday (March 20, 2019). They reconvene Thursday, March 21st. Here are next steps for how HB 481 will progress through the legislature.

1. RULES COMMITTEE

Since the substitute HB 481 bill was approved by the Senate Science & Technology committee on Monday (March 18, 2019), it goes to the Rules Committee as early as Thursday (March 21, 2019) for a vote on if and when it would be placed on the Senate calendar for a debate on the Senate floor.

2. SENATE CALENDAR

Once approved by the Rules Committee, the substitute HB 481 will be scheduled for a Senate floor debate as early as Friday (March 22, 2019). We will send out an update once the date is known.

3. SENATE DEBATE & VOTE

Once the substitute HB 481 bill is on the Senate calendar, it is up to the discretion of the Lt. Governor when the bill will be called up for debate and a vote.

To win a constitutional majority on the Senate floor, the bill must receive 29 votes. There are currently 37 Republicans and 19 Democrats in the Senate. Assuming ALL Democratic Senators vote to oppose HB 481, opponents must sway 8 Republican Senators to vote no or abstain from voting by taking a “walk” when the vote is called.

4. BACK TO THE HOUSE FOR A VOTE

If the substitute HB 481 bill passes in the Senate, it goes back to the House chamber for a vote to determine whether or not the House accepts the changes made to the bill. Should the House vote “no,” the bill becomes a political football in a power “game” between Republicans in the two chambers. The substitute bill must pass in the House with no further amendments to go straight to the Governor’s desk for signature.

WAYS TO FIGHT BACK

1. The Rules Committee

The Rules Committee sets the Senate calendar and determines whether HB 481 will be scheduled for debate and a vote on the Senate floor.

It is not too late to contact Senators serving on the Rules Committee to urge them to block a vote on HB 481.

Republican Members include:

Democrat Members include:

2. Senate Leadership

The leaders of the Georgia Senate have power and influence over their fellow Senators.  There’s still plenty of time to contact all members of the Senate Leadership.

3. Vulnerable Senators

The list of Senators below won re-election in 2018 by slim margins. Their seats are extremely vulnerable during the 2020 election cycle and many already have announced Democratic opponents. Fearing a loss of power, these Senators may be more persuadable than others. Whether they VOTE NO or WALK OUT for the vote, it’s not too late to pressure these Senators to oppose HB 481.

Make sure they know we’re coming for their seats if they choose to vote against women.

4. Senators With Ties to Medical Field

With two of the largest medical associations in Georgia – the Medical Association of Georgia (MAG) and the Georgia Association of Family Practitioners (GAFP) – publicly speaking out in opposition to HB 481, there are a few Senators with backgrounds in the medical field who may be persuadable.

Senator Kay Kirkpatrick, SD-32

She is a retired orthopedic surgeon and has announced she will not be at the Capitol on Friday due to the funeral for a dear friend.

Senator Renee Unterman, SD-45

She is a nurse and a clinically-trained social worker. While she has authored more than a dozen pro-life bills during her tenure, she avoided a vote in Monday’s committee meeting for a reason. She is said to be considering a run for the 7th Congressional District. With demographic shifts in Gwinnett County’s population, a vote against women might not be received well by potential future constituents.

Senator Ben Watson, SD-1

He has served as a primary care physician in Savannah since 1988. He practices internal medicine with a specialty in geriatrics.

Senator Dean Burke, SD-11

He graduated from the Medical College of Georgia and specialized in Obstetrics and Gynecology at the Mercer University School of Medicine.  He practiced obstetrics and gynecology for 27 years and now serves as Chief Medical Officer at Memorial Hospital and Manor in Bainbridge.

Senator Lester Jackson, SD-2

He is an award-winning dentist and CEO of Coastal Health Solutions (CHS).

Senator Blake Tillery, SD-19

He is a lawyer, but his wife is currently an OB-GYN resident. He may be persuaded by both the legal and medical flaws of HB 481.

5. This Bill is Bad for Business

Women make up 52% of Georgia’s population and nearly 49% of Georgia’s workforce. This bill would drive away talent from Georgia and also prevent new talent from relocating to our state. Businesses would incur increased costs for paternity leave and employer-provided healthcare plans, not to mention the increased opportunity cost of recruiting hard-to-find talent.

This bill, with the criminalization of physicians, will continue to drive away doctors and OB-GYNs. Georgia is already the worst state in the nation for maternal mortality rate and nearly half of Georgia’s 159 counties do not have an OB-GYN. This bill would exacerbate the problem, putting more and more women and mothers at risk.

Businesses headquartered or with large employment groups in Georgia should be speaking out against this bill. It’s not too late to encourage them to do so! Email and Twitter can be very effective.

  • Georgia Chamber of Commerce can be found HERE.
  • Georgia’s largest employers can be found HERE.
  • Georgia’s Top 50 public companies can be found HERE.
Rep. Ed Setzler, author and sponsor of HB 481, walking past protestors dressed as handmaids on Monday, March 18th – the day of the committee vote
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