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Hall politicians, abortion rights supporters react to Roe v. Wade draft ruling
050052022 Abortion
Protesters rally to defend abortion rights at Centennial Olympic Park before marching to the Georgia Capitol on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Atlanta. - photo by Associated Press

A draft opinion leaked from the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this week could clear the way for lawmakers to severely limit or ban abortions in Georgia.

“I’m grateful that it looks like we’ve got the federal government — Joe Biden — out of the way,” state Sen. Butch Miller, R-Gainesville, told The Times. “That’s the indication. … My goal is to protect life. If the court goes the way the leak suggests, we’ll have Joe Biden out of the way and we can do more in Georgia to protect life.”

The draft opinion, first leaked by Politico Monday, May 2, states the decision in Roe v. Wade in 1973, which guaranteed federal constitutional protections for abortion rights, was “egregiously wrong from the start.” 

Miller, who is running for lieutenant governor, said he was in favor of banning abortions, and he voted for the “heartbeat bill” in 2019, which would decrease the window women have to get an abortion from about 20 weeks to around six weeks, which is typically when a doctor can detect a heartbeat in the fetus. 

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Ileana Ungurean, a sonographer at Choices Pregnancy Care Center, points out aspects of an ultrasound on Thursday, March 21, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

If the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, as the draft opinion suggests, states would be able to decide their own abortion laws. In Georgia, this could clear the way for implementation of the “heartbeat bill,” HB 481, which has been blocked by a federal court injunction.

Under HB 481, women in Georgia would legally be able to receive later abortions in situations involving rape or incest when the woman has filed a police report, if the mother’s life is in danger or when a fetus would be unable to live after birth. Parents would also have the right to claim an embryo on their taxes as dependents once the heartbeat is detected.

Megan Gordon-Kane, the public affairs manager at Feminist Women’s Health Center in Atlanta, said the decision could have consequences beyond banning abortion. 

“Once you start chipping away at the legal concept of the right to privacy — that is where we get the right to contraception, the right to gay marriage, the right to interracial marriage,” Gordon-Kane said. “So many really important civil rights, so many really basic civil rights that we take for granted.”

Georgia has about a dozen abortion clinics, Gordon-Kane said, which is more than surrounding states, and the Feminist Women’s Health Center serves women throughout the southeast. It is one of the closest clinics to Hall County that provides abortion services.

“The onus should not be on people who can get pregnant to immediately identify and then act on an unwanted pregnancy in the microscopic window of time that the government has given them,” Gordon-Kane said of the “heartbeat bill.” 

Mike Ford, chair of the Hall County Democratic Party and a candidate for the 9th Congressional District, said Georgians were getting what they voted for. 

“It comes under the heading of ‘be careful what you wish for’ you voted for this, and here you go,” Ford said. 

There are no clinics that perform abortions in Hall County, and alternative pregnancy crisis centers would likely not be significantly affected by a new abortion law.

“There will still continue to be crisis pregnancies,” said Lee Koz, executive director of Choices Pregnancy Care Centers, a crisis pregnancy and anti-abortion center in Gainesville. “We would just continue to perform our exact same services.”

The center offers counseling, free pregnancy tests, ultrasounds and STD panels along with post-abortion support for those negatively affected by the procedure.

“There are excellent alternatives that are better than abortion,” Koz said. “It’s better to let the natural process occur.”

Some Georgia Republicans have suggested holding a special session to outlaw all abortions, but Miller said that would be “putting the cart before the horse,” because the court’s decision has not yet been made.

“I understand people wanting to be preemptive, but let’s be measured and deliberative,” he said. “My goal is to protect life.” 

05052022 Abortion
Protesters rally to defend the right to abortion at Centennial Olympic Park before marching to the Georgia Capitol on Tuesday, May 3, 2022, in Atlanta. - photo by Associated Press