Those of us in government are charged with one mission above all others: securing and protecting the freedoms of those we serve. Leaders like my friend, mentor, and predecessor Congressman John Lewis dedicated their lives fighting not just to preserve those freedoms, but to expand them, so that they could encompass each and every American – no matter their race, sexuality, background, or zip code.
That doesn’t just mean freedom from persecution, discrimination, and marginalization. It means the freedom to: to make private health care decisions only you can make, to access the resources you need to start a family on your terms, and even to marry the person that you love.
Right now, those freedoms are under attack. In just the past few weeks in Congress, they were attacked almost all at once. The right to travel to another state to get an abortion, the right to access contraception, and the right to marry, each in a separate piece of legislation, was put to a vote on the floor of the House of Representatives. And every one of Georgia’s eight Republican members voted them down. If my Republican colleagues had their way, those rights wouldn’t be yours or mine to cherish any longer. They’d be reversed entirely, in states like Georgia, across the nation. Our own Governor Brian Kemp won’t even commit to vetoing legislation challenging these rights in Georgia.
The rights to privacy, autonomy, and self-determination are among the most important that any person can have. In Dobbs v. Jackson, conservative justices on the United States Supreme Court eviscerated that right, and in its wake overturned the longstanding protections of Roe v. Wade, which had enshrined women’s constitutional right to an abortion. And now, Republicans are doubling down on their decades-long campaign to finally make abortion illegal. Within hours of Roe being overturned, Brian Kemp rushed to implement his extreme abortion ban, which outlaws abortion before most people even realize they’re pregnant – and he hasn’t ruled out going further, including banning abortion with no exceptions in cases of rape and incest.
But this goes beyond the state of Georgia: Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell confirmed that a national abortion ban would be on the table if the GOP regains control in Washington, and Republican Senate nominee Herschel Walker has explicitly said it’s “a problem” that “there’s not a national ban on abortion right now” — promising to make abortion illegal without exceptions for rape, incest, or danger to a mother’s life.
In Georgia, we know more intimately than most that restricting reproductive freedom disproportionately impacts communities already bearing the brunt of systemic inequality, including people of color, those in poverty, and those in rural areas. Georgia has the worst maternal mortality rate in the country, making us one of the most dangerous states to be pregnant in – and it’s even worse for women in marginalized communities. While the maternal mortality rate for all Georgia women is twice as high than the national average, Black women in Georgia are three times more likely to die due to pregnancy. On top of that, we know that abortion restrictions disproportionately harm Black women. We know that Republicans’ votes to strip away our rights will exacerbate disparities in health care that continue to impact Black and brown folks here in Georgia – but the GOP doesn’t care. Their primary focus is erasing more and more of our rights, controlling how we live, love, and start families.
The right-wing, extreme, ultra-MAGA agenda of today’s Republicans would have a devastating impact on our state. If Georgia’s Republican representatives in Washington get the chance to vote against these rights as part of a GOP majority, we’d lose a new freedom every week. If Brian Kemp and Georgia Republicans hold on to power here in Georgia, they will be emboldened to crack down on our freedoms even more. The only thing stopping them is Georgia voters.
Fortunately, the fight for our rights isn’t over. We have the opportunity in November to send leaders to Washington like Reverend Raphael Warnock, who will continue fighting to restore a woman’s right to make her own health care decisions. We have the chance to elect new leaders here in Georgia like Stacey Abrams, who will work to reverse the GOP’s years-long attack on our freedoms and strengthen our rights. With the GOP’s plans to roll back our rights on full display, the stakes have never been higher. Georgians must continue to make their voices heard, speaking out against injustice wherever it is found. By electing champions for our reproductive rights and our freedoms in all aspects of life in November, our votes can put us back on the path of liberty and progress. That’s a fight that we can win, if we fight together.