Georgia Needs a Reproductive Freedom Act

Where were you when you found out that the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned Roe v. Wade? Chances are you remember that moment this past June vividly because for many of us the action was previously thought unimaginable. Even for those who had been paying close attention and saw it coming, the news that the loss of federal protection over reproductive freedom had been confirmed was hard to digest. And in Georgia, the overturning of Roe opened the door for a 6-week abortion ban — which passed in 2019 but was previously blocked by a district court for being unconstitutional — to officially take effect across the state. 

Though devastation was felt by so many around the country after the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision, the truth is, in Georgia — the state with the highest maternal mortality rate in the country — reproductive rights have been under attack for years. Since 2005, Georgia politicians have passed 13 medically unnecessary and politically motivated abortion restrictions, like required waiting periods and insurance coverage regulations. On top of these restrictions, there are only 15 clinics that provide abortions in Georgia. Ninety-five percent of Georgia’s counties do not have an abortion clinic and 55% of Georgia women live in those counties, which means most Georgians must travel a significant distance to abortion providers. This travel can have a serious financial impact on those seeking abortion care, and not just because of transportation costs. Research shows that 60% of people who have an abortion are already parents to one or more child, so childcare costs must also be factored in for those who are forced to travel to obtain an abortion. 

Georgians who wish to end their pregnancies also have to contend with anti-abortion fake clinics (also known as anti-abortion centers, AACs, pregnancy resource centers, crisis pregnancy centers, or CPCs), which aim to discourage people from obtaining abortions by posing as real clinics and providing medically inaccurate information. According to the Reproaction Education Fund: Anti-Abortion Fake Clinic Database, there are 99 anti-abortion fake clinics in the state. That means Georgia has over six times more fake clinics spreading false information and shame than real clinics offering safe abortions. Worse still, there is a history of state funds being funneled into these fake abortion clinics. Some anti-abortion fake clinics have financial relationships with state agencies, referred to as “Alternatives to Abortion” or “A2A” programs. According to Mapping Deception: A Closer Look at How States’ Anti-Abortion Center Programs Operate, a report by Equity Forward, Georgia has an A2A program that uses state funding to support fake clinics. Meanwhile, Medicaid does not cover abortions in Georgia. And, just so you’re clear on where hypocritical right-wing candidates in the upcoming Nov 8 election stand on anti-abortion clinics, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that last year, Herschel Walker was paid $20,000 to speak at a fake clinic in Hurst, Texas and $27,000 to speak at one in Augusta, both of which are AACs. 

Even with all of the pre-existing abortion restrictions forced on working Georgians, the overturning of Roe v. Wade makes matters even more dire. The Supreme Court decision highlighted a frustration that has been bubbling under the surface for so many citizens regarding an array of issues. High-profile politicians who were already in office inundated our email inboxes with alarming subject lines and messages with no real plan of action beyond “Keep voting Blue.” But how could we believe that continuing to do what we already have been would make any difference? Abortion is overwhelmingly popular across the country and 70% of Georgia voters support abortion access. So, of course, it’s the undemocratic nature of the courts, senate, and gerrymandering that is to blame for this situation, and not those of us who have been voting, election after election. How can we, as working Georgians, change anything? 

As Socialists, we are ultimately fighting for universal, free health care and free abortion at the point of service. However, there are some steps we can begin to take legislatively to reclaim and even improve abortion rights in Georgia. Right now, there are local pieces of legislation being proposed to curb the impact of the 6-week ban in Georgia, including county-level decriminalization resolutions and donations to regional abortion funds. Now, with the Georgia legislative session on the horizon, reproductive justice advocates are calling for a statewide Reproductive Freedom Act. 

What is the Reproductive Freedom Act (RFA)?

With the right to access abortion care under threat at both the state and national levels, it is past time for our elected representatives to enshrine the right to abortion access and reproductive health care in our state law. That’s where the Reproductive Freedom Act comes in. 

Ahead of the 2023 legislative session, reproductive justice advocates are preparing to introduce a Reproductive Freedom Act to the state legislature, with the goal of protecting and expanding access to abortion care across Georgia. With 27 sections, the RFA being proposed would be  comprehensive in its support and defense of any person seeking or providing timely, safe, legal, and affordable abortion care. The bill would also fight to remove shame, stigma, and punishment around abortion care, by repealing many current laws and restrictions passed previously by right-wing legislators.

If passed, what would the RFA do?

Based on the current proposal, each section of the RFA pinpoints a specific piece of the puzzle that is achieving reproductive justice for all Georgians. Here is, at a glance, everything the Reproductive Freedom Act would do:

  • Ensure that all Georgians have the right to choose or refuse contraception and sterilization, and that those who have the capacity to become pregnant can choose whether to carry a pregnancy to term, give birth, or have an abortion.
  • Ensure that no Georgian who ends their own pregnancy will be subjected to investigation and prosecution.
  • Repeal a set of laws that criminalize some or all abortion care.
  • Repeal the 2019 law that establishes each fetus as a “person,” which gives a fetus rights separate from the pregnant person.
  • Repeal law requiring any young person who needs an abortion to notify their parents.
  • Repeal a law that requires physicians who care for pregnant patients later in pregnancy to provide a specific type of resuscitative care regardless of the circumstances.
  • Repeal medically unnecessary TRAP (targeted restrictions on abortion provision) laws that make abortion more difficult to provide and obtain, under threat of criminal penalties.
  • Repeal a criminal law prohibiting qualified physician assistants, nurse practitioners, and trained certified nurse midwives from providing abortion care, and a second law prohibiting physician assistants specifically from providing medication abortion.  
  • Repeal state-mandated counseling and delay law, which requires abortion patients to receive medically unnecessary and inaccurate information and then wait 24 hours before being allowed to obtain an abortion.  
  • Repeal laws that prohibit insurers from offering coverage for abortion care in state benefit health plans, and require Medicaid to offer coverage for abortion.

Why is it important to pass the RFA?

Georgia’s current abortion bans and restrictions are based on anti-abortion ideology, not medical science, and are opposed by the AMA and other leading medical authorities. The current laws ignore the fundamental fact that abortion is health care and therefore should be regulated as such. Just like with any other medical procedure, decisions about abortion — as well as contraception, sterilization, and fertility issues — should be made by a patient and their doctor. 

Giving a fetus rights separate from the pregnant person is one specific way that anti-abortion lawmakers are taking the ability to make these important decisions out of the hands of patients and providers, and it has serious consequences. For example, it could impact anyone using in-vitro fertilization, people accessing medical care that poses a risk to a fetus (such as chemotherapy), the use of birth control pills or IUDs (despite science stating otherwise), and could open pregnant people and doctors up to criminal investigation for actions during pregnancy. 

Even the threat of criminalization can discourage someone from accessing critical health care during the prenatal, birthing, or postpartum period, which can have damaging effects on their physical and mental well-being and a negative impact on their lives and futures. This piece is especially hairy for young people, who are still in the early stages of building their lives. Just because a person is under 18 doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be allowed to make important decisions about what is best for their health and future. In an ideal situation, a young person can seek the advice of a parent, but of course, not everyone lives in ideal circumstances. Studies have also shown that anti-abortion fake clinics target young people. So, it is critical that the barriers be removed in order to allow every person, regardless of age or reason, to access health care and information.

How to Support the RFA

Don’t allow that hopelessness you felt when Roe was overturned to take hold. There is still a path forward for reproductive freedom in the state of Georgia, but it requires a fight. While the right wing is doing everything it can to suppress our rights and our bodily autonomy, it’s essential that working people fight back on all fronts possible, including the electoral and legislative fronts. Again, as Socialists, our end goal is free health care, including free abortion, for all people. On the way there, we need to advocate for our local representatives to use all their power to protect our right to abortion and commit to voting yes and pushing the RFA through. 

To help us do that, sign and share the existing petition to pass the RFA in Georgia. Email your representatives and let them know you support the RFA. Attend canvassing events with DSA and follow along for updates on other pieces of local legislation to protect abortion. Together, we can win!