Democrats Choose To Treat Abortion Unseriously

Being in the minority party in a given jurisdiction is no fun, a fact to which I can personally attest as a Republican living in DeKalb County. Issues important to you are likely to go unaddressed at best, or handled exactly opposite to your views at worst. Being a legislator in the minority party must be even worse. Your job is to pass legislation, but the other party can always vote down any controversial bills you want to pass, and even if they didn’t, they’d be vetoed by the Governor.

But it is possible to be an effective legislator in the minority. By focusing on issues with wide bipartisan support, working with legislators of the majority party to craft legislation, taking moderate positions on highly polarizing issues, and generally reading which way the wind is blowing, a member of the minority party can accomplish some things. They probably won’t be able to do everything they want, but they can still effectively represent their constituents.

My state representative, Democrat Scott Holcomb, has used these strategies to advance several pieces of major legislation over the past seven years. He has focused on the handling of evidence collected in rape cases, seeing three separate bills related to the testing, retention, and tracking of such evidence signed into law. 

Getting multiple high-profile bills through two legislative branches and an executive office controlled by the opposite party requires strategy. Helping to prosecute rapists is a cause both parties can support. Holcomb worked with the GOP on his bills prior to officially introducing them, and had Republican cosponsors in both the House and Senate each time. And in general he hasn’t taken extreme positions on issues that would antagonize his fellow representatives.

Unfortunately, my current state senator, Democrat Sally Harrell, along with her House colleague, Shea Roberts, have chosen the opposite strategy. In a press conference yesterday, they announced the simultaneous dropping of House Bill 75 and Senate Bill 15, identical legislation designed to change the laws regarding abortion in Georgia. (Note: this column is not about abortion.)

Only “change” is probably too light a word. “Fully repeal” is more accurate, and even it doesn’t totally cover these bills. All restrictions on abortion at any time and for any reason would be completely removed. Nothing that could cause the slightest inconvenience to the procurement of an abortion – counseling, ultrasound, a waiting period – would be permitted. Parental notification laws would be so weakened as to be nonexistent. Both public and private insurers would be required to fund abortions. A pregnant woman whose baby was killed by a negligent or criminal act wouldn’t even be able to sue the perpetrator, so thorough is the proposed law’s utter negation of the idea that a human child has any value at any point prior to birth. 

This bill is truly radical. And it’s going nowhere. It almost certainly won’t get out of a committee in either chamber, let alone pass a floor vote. I feel quite certain that no Republicans were seriously consulted about it. It takes the most extreme possible position on one of the most politically polarizing issues of the day. And it’s far beyond what most Georgians, even Democrats, would support.

What’s worse is that both these legislators are fully aware of all this. These bills aren’t about making policy. The point is the press conference, and the social media, and the mailers next campaign cycle, and the donations.

(A reminder: this column is not about abortion. If you need another example, consider a pair of Republican state lawmakers in California publicly announcing bills that would fully repeal every gun law in that state. Would you think they were making a serious effort to legislate?)

This isn’t the first time any legislator has demagogued an issue by making a big show of introducing a bill that has no chance of passing, and it probably won’t be the last. But we should recognize it for what it is: a cynical attempt to appeal to supporters and donors without having to do the hard work of collaboration and compromise that actually making laws requires. It’s unfortunate when our elected representatives don’t take their jobs more seriously than that. 

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