ACLU of Georgia

Cobb County politicos react to Roe v. Wade bombshell

Hunter Riggall | Marietta Daily Journal | May 4, 2022

May 4—For state Rep. Ed Setzler, R-Acworth, news that the U.S. Supreme Court may be on the cusp of overturning Roe v. Wade may spell the end of “the brutality of not recognizing life in utero as being fully human and worthy of protection.”


For state Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, it may spell the end of “the constitutional ability and autonomy to make decisions about my body and my future” and “a future where my daughter will not have these same rights.”


The reactions of Setzler, Jordan and other Cobb politicos on Tuesday were similar to statements from national politicians and advocacy groups. Many Democrats expressed dismay and outrage, while Republicans were in some cases pleased, but in other cases angered by the leak that precipitated the headlines.


Politico reported Monday night that a draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito and supported by four other conservative justices would overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 Supreme Court precedent which for nearly half a century has protected a woman’s right to abortion. The draft opinion, which has reportedly been circulated within the court, would also overturn the 1993 Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, which established a framework based on fetal viability in determining the constitutionality of state-based abortion restrictions.


Alito’s draft was written to be a potential ruling in a case currently under review, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, which concerns the legality of a Mississippi law that bans most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.


The leak of a draft opinion while the court is still deliberating on a case has been described as unprecedented in modern times. The Supreme Court Tuesday confirmed the authenticity of the draft opinion, which Politico released a copy of, but said it “does not represent a decision by the Court or the final position of any member on the issues in the case.”


Georgia House Bill 481, the Living Infants Fairness Equality (LIFE) Act, was sponsored by Setzler in the 2019 General Assembly session and signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp. It is currently tied up in the U.S. 11th Circuit Court of Appeals, which is awaiting a Supreme Court decision in the Mississippi case before issuing a ruling.


The LIFE Act, also known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” would ban most abortions after a “fetal heartbeat” is detected, typically six weeks into pregnancy (critics have argued that the cardiac activity in embryos at this stage of pregnancy is not a true heartbeat).


Should the Supreme Court rule in favor of Mississippi and overturn Roe, Setzler anticipated that the 11th Court of Appeals would uphold the LIFE Act within a few weeks.


Setzler, who is now running for state Senate, said that if that happens, Americans will one day look back at Roe v. Wade in the same way they now view the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sanford decision, which denied that Black people were or could be U.S. citizens.


“Just as the Dred Scott decision, the Plessy v. Ferguson decision about segregation, the Korematsu decision allowing the internment of hundreds of thousands of Japanese Americans without due process, those have been scrapped in total, and they’re in the trash heap of legal history,” Setzler said, echoing the arguments of some conservative justices. “And I think that’s exactly where Roe v. Wade also belongs.”


Jordan, a candidate for attorney general, received widespread attention in 2019 for an impassioned speech she gave arguing against the LIFE Act. On Tuesday, she said an overturning of Roe could open the door to the high court stripping away other rights.


“The Supreme Court’s decision isn’t just about women or reproductive freedom. It’s about restricting freedom for every American — the freedom to access contraception, or to marry who you love — freedoms that are based on the same constitutional foundation as Roe v. Wade,” Jordan said.


A small group protested the Supreme Court’s potential overturn of Roe v. Wade on Marietta Square Tuesday afternoon.


The protest of about 20 people was organized by Cobb Women for Body Autonomy, an abortion-rights group. Demonstrators repeated chants of “my body, my choice,” and other slogans as they marched and waved signs.


“I think it’s really important that people on this part of town, in this area, realize there are people like them, who are also outraged by what’s happening, who are scared and angry and have to act,” said Brittany Trambauer-Smith, who helped organize the event. “And I can’t think of any better way to act, that’s American, than protesting.”


Trambauer-Smith spoke about the importance of voting and political engagement, or else face “a landslide of loss of freedom.”


Party leaders weigh in

Cobb GOP Chair Salleigh Grubbs expressed excitement that the court may turn over control of abortion access to state governments, but expressed concern about the leak of the draft opinion.


“I would like to know who thought that it was OK to breach that confidentiality. And I think that person, they need to find that person and that person needs to be prosecuted and disbarred, if they are an attorney, and I’m assuming they would be,” Grubbs said.

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts announced an investigation into the leak on Tuesday.


Instead of declaring victory, top congressional Republicans condemned the leak as an attack on the court and called for investigations.

Gov. Brian Kemp said in a statement he supported the investigation into the leak.


“Under my leadership, Georgia will remain a state that values life at all stages, and as we anticipate the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision, Georgians should rest assured that I will continue to fight for the strongest pro-life legislation in the country,” Kemp said.


Kara Richardson, a spokesperson for Attorney General Chris Carr, said Carr would reserve comment until the Supreme Court issues a final decision.


“In the meantime, we will continue to vigorously defend Georgia’s Heartbeat Bill in federal court,” Richardson said.


Overturning Roe v. Wade could lead to some states passing laws even more strict than the Georgia heartbeat bill.


“I think that what you have to look at is in your core as your beliefs, when do you believe life begins? And I believe life begins at conception,” Grubbs said. “So I absolutely believe that whatever we can do to protect life is what we need to do.”


Jacquelyn Bettadapur, chair of the Cobb Democratic Committee, said the news drove home the importance of elections.


“I don’t hit the streets over much, in the way of protests, but I will hit the streets over this,” she said. “I’m past childbearing age, but I can’t believe, I’m just shocked, that we’re going to turn the clock back this way. It’s just unacceptable.”


A January poll conducted by the University of Georgia on behalf of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution found just 24% of Georgians supported the overturning of Roe, and 68% were opposed.


Republican women, too, will be affected by an abortion ban, Bettadapur said, and overturning Roe would have major political consequences. Most people, she thinks, know someone with a personal connection to abortion or other procedures.


“I’ve had three pregnancies and two children,” Bettadapur said. “The first pregnancy failed at 10 weeks, miscarriage … so I had to go in and have a D&C (dilation and curettage procedure), which is technically, I guess, an abortion. But my fetus had no heartbeat. So that was all done under a doctor’s supervision. So, six weeks, I mean, most women don’t even know they’re pregnant yet.”


Other reactions

Stacey Abrams, who will be the Democratic nominee for governor, expressed outrage about the news. “As a woman, I am enraged by the continued assault on our right to control our bodies and our futures,” Abrams said. “As an American, I am appalled by the Supreme Court breach and its implications. As the next Governor of Georgia, I will defend the right to an abortion and fight for reproductive justice.”


Kemp’s primary opponent, former Sen. David Perdue, called for a special session of the legislature to ban abortion if Roe is overturned.


“Bonnie and I believe that every child is a gift from God. Any ruling from the Supreme Court that would save innocent lives would be an historic milestone. If I were Governor when this ruling was issued, I would immediately call the legislature back into a special session to ban abortion in Georgia,” Perdue said.


Vinings-based anti-abortion group Georgia Life Alliance said that “we have seen hysteria from the pro-abortion left claiming that the Supreme Court is effectively outlawing abortion in America — this is not the case.”


“Georgia Life Alliance praises the courage of the Justices who seem poised to make this historic decision to extend human rights to babies in the womb. We also condemn any attempts by the abortion industry to threaten or intimidate members of the Supreme Court into changing their decision. We stand ready to respond to any attempts to undermine this decision in Georgia and we continue to work with our partners statewide to implement our Heartbeat Bill,” said Martha Zoller, the group’s executive director.


The ACLU of Georgia, which has challenged the heartbeat bill in court, said it would evaluate next steps if Roe is overturned.


“Georgia’s ban on abortion remains blocked in the courts and abortions are still safe and legal in the state,” said ACLU of Georgia Legal Director Sean J. Young.