Reactions from Gwinnett County’s three congressional representatives to the news that the U.S. Supreme Court had overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision ranged from calling it “damnable” to hailing it as a “great, great victory” on Friday.
The court’s 5-4 decision to overturn the 49-year-old Roe decision, which asserted that women had a right to get an abortion, was announced Friday morning, but had been anticipated for weeks after a draft version of the decision was leaked.
The ruling was in a case concerning a 2018 law in Mississippi that banned abortions after 15 weeks.
“This is the most damnable Supreme Court decision in my lifetime,” said U.S. Rep. Hank Johnson, D-Ga. “For the first time in our nation’s history, the Supreme Court has snatched away a fundamental civil right. For half a century, the reproductive right has been a hallmark of gender equality in our nation. Women have now had that right ripped away by a callous and extreme, draconian Supreme Court.
“What civil right is next? Will it be the right to use contraceptives? Will it be marriage equality? Or will it be the civil and voting rights of Black and Brown people? Just how far backwards does this ultra-reactionary Court plan to take us?”
Among Gwinnett’s three representatives in Congress, the reactions were split along party lines. While Johnson and fellow Democrat, U.S. Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux, objected to the court’s decision, U.S. Rep. Jody Hice, a Republican, praised it in a video that was posted on his Facebook page.
“We could not be more thrilled that the protection of life is being upheld and Roe has been overturned,” Hice said. “So, we’re excited today and understanding two things. No. 1, that this is a great day for life, a great day for America, but this is also the beginning of a great battle that turns to the states.”
Meanwhile, Bourdeaux predicted “women will die because of this decision.”
“I am mortified to see the work of generations of women wiped away by Supreme Court Justices who do not share the values of a vast majority of Americans,” Bourdeaux said. “Women’s health care is not debatable.”
Like Hice, Bourdeaux focused on state-level decisions regarding abortions that will be made, or enforced, in light of the Supreme Court’s ruling. Bourdeaux pointed to Georgia’s “heartbeat bill,” officially called House Bill 481, that has been caught up in legal battles since it was signed into law by Gov. Brian Kemp in 2019.
“HB481 — a controversial 6-week abortion ban passed by Gov. Kemp and state Republicans — could go into effect within weeks,” Bourdeaux said. “This means women and doctors can face criminal prosecution over seeking life-saving medical care.
“Georgia is regularly ranked as one of the worst in the nation for maternal mortality. Women in Georgia are more likely to die as a result of complications with childbirth than in any other state in the nation, and HB481 will only make this worse.”
There is always the possibility they could try to take some action to protect access to abortions through federal law, but Bourdeaux — who would likely support such a move — and Hice, who would likely oppose it, don’t have much time left in Congress to weigh in on that battle. Both of them will be leaving Congress at the end of this year.
Bourdeaux was defeated by fellow U.S. Rep. Lucy McBath in last month’s Democratic Party Primary for the 7th Congressional District seat and Hice opted to run for secretary of state instead of seeking another term in office. Hice lost to incumbent Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in the Republican primary last month, however.
But, both Bourdeaux and Hice are gearing up for a fight over abortion rights, although Hice is focusing more on the battle at the state level than a fight in Congress.
“We all recognize that the value of life is important. It’s one of the most important battles we can engage in and there are two lives involved,” Hice said. “There’s the life of the mother and there’s the life of the baby, and the radicals on the left are determined to continue abortion all the way through full term pregnancy and now that battle is going to the states.
“As we pray now for our country, for the protests that will undoubtably are about to begin nationwide, to the battles that are about to begin in state legislatures all across the nation, I ask you to join me in prayers as we go forward from this point and today as we celebrate a great, great victory.”
Meanwhile, Bourdeaux said, “I will keep fighting to restore what we have lost and protect our bodies, our lives, and our futures from the reactionary majority on the Supreme Court we have today.”
The decision is expected to likely have an impact on this year’s elections, which include elections for every member of the Georgia General Assembly.
In fact, some Gwinnett legislators and Democrats running for legislative seats were already using the decision to point toward the general election in November.
“Despite the darkness of this day, I am more resolute than ever,” said state Sen. Nikki Merritt, D-Grayson. “Now that abortion will be left to the states, it is more important than ever to fight like hell, speak out, demonstrate, and elect pro-choice candidates. This is not the end. We have an opportunity to reimagine Georgia in November.”
Former Gwinnett Democratic Party Chairman Gabe Okoye, who is running for state House District 102, added, “With the court repealing Roe v. Wade and sending abortion rights back to the states, the stakes in this year’s election cannot be more clear. We need a Democratic majority in the Georgia Legislature, and Governor Stacey Abrams in office working together to protect the rights of women to privacy, and to make their own healthcare decisions.”
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