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‘Heartbeat bill:’ Dem lawmakers plan strategy; petition seeks to delay start date

Capitol Views by Kelly Jordan

Georgia's state Capitol building. Credit: Kelly Jordan.

By David Pendered

The pace of activity is increasing in the effort to halt the pending restriction of abortion in Georgia.

Capitol Views by Kelly Jordan

Six Georgia Democratic lawmakers attended a training seminar to learn strategies to promote progressive issues. Credit: Kelly Jordan

Six Democratic lawmakers have just returned from a training seminar sponsored by a group founded by the former political director of NARAL, a pro-choice group. On Tuesday, the ACLU asked a federal judge to delay the Jan. 1, 2020 start of the “heartbeat bill.”

The six Georgia senators and representatives who returned Washington had attended a weekend training seminar titled State Strategy Forum, hosted by Public Leadership Institute.

By attending the event, the Georgia lawmakers have joined the movement of Democrats at the state and local levels who are uniting to coordinate their pushback to the national agenda being pursued by Republicans. PLI is one of several organizations that offer training and model legislation for Democrats, just as Republicans have utilized ALEC – the American Legislative Exchange Council.

PLI was founded by Gloria Totten, who also serves as president, according to PLI’s website. Totten’s biography on the site includes this description of her experience in the pro-choice movement:

  • “Gloria served [as] Political Director for NARAL from 1996-2001 and as Executive Director for Maryland NARAL from 1993-1996. In her home state of Minnesota, Gloria worked as the Education Director for Pro-Choice Resources, President and Lobbyist for the Minnesota Coalition Against Sexual Assault and Media Chair for It’s Time Minnesota!.”

At the weekend seminar, state Rep. Dar’shun Kendrick (D-Lithonia) served on a panel titled, “All in for Women: Protecting and Expanding Abortion Rights,” according to the event’s agenda. Totten served as the panel’s moderator.

Kendrick didn’t directly address the panel discussion in her comment that was included in a statement released Monday by the Legislature’s press office. This is what she did say:

Dar’shun Kendrick

Dar’shun Kendrick

  • “It was my first time attending PLI, and we heard some great speakers, and I was happy to participate on a panel I am passionate about. There were legislators from all over the nation that I was able to connect with and share ideas.”

The lawmakers who participated, in addition to Kendrick, were: Rep. Debra Bazemore (D-Riverdale); Rep. Billy Mitchell (D-Stone Mountain); Rep. Sam Park (D-Lawrenceville); Sen. Tonya Anderson (D-Lithonia), and Sen. Nan Orrock (D-Atlanta).

The Georgians were among about 120 state legislators from more than 40 different states who attended to, “participate in policy and leadership sessions, which are designed as practical and real-world as possible,” according to the statement.

PLI’s website says the organization is a, “nonprofit, nonpartisan policy and leadership center organized to raise public awareness on key issues of equity and justice and to develop public leaders who will improve the economic and social conditions of all Americans.”

Abortion rights is one of several progressive topics featured on PLI’s homepage. The abortion button links to what is called a Playbook for Abortion Rights, which provides guidance on communications strategies and current laws on the topics.

In the battle to be waged in U.S. District Court in Atlanta, the ACLU filed a petition filed Tuesday asking U.S. District Court Judge Steve Jones to prevent the state “heartbeat” measure from taking effect Jan. 1, 2020. Responses are due Aug. 12.

The petition contends:

  • “Absent an order from this court, it [the law] will inflict significant and irreparable harm on plantiffs and their patients and members for which there is no adequate remedy at law.”

The petition was filed in the lawsuit brought by Sistersong Women of Color Reproductive Justice Collective, and others, against Gov. Brian Kemp, and others. Kemp’s office did not immediately respond Tuesday to an emailed request for comment.


David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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