One of the primary legislative backers of Georgia’s six-week abortion ban announced Thursday that she’s running for Congress in 2020.
State Sen. Renee Unterman said she plans to jump into what’s already considered a crowded race for Georgia’s 7th District, which covers Atlanta’s northern suburbs. The Republican filed a statement of candidacy with the Federal Election Commission on Wednesday.
“Anyone who knows me will tell you that the Lord has instilled within me a beautiful ball of energy loaded with courage to do the right thing ― not necessarily the politically correct and expedient or self-serving thing to do, but the right thing,” she said Thursday evening at her announcement.
Last month, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed HB481 into law ― otherwise known as the “fetal heartbeat bill” ― making the state one of the most restrictive in the country for women seeking an abortion. The legislation bans abortion after about the sixth week, before many people know they are pregnant. The law also criminalizes abortion and bans many forms of contraception. Its nickname can be misleading because there is no fetus or heart at six weeks, but rather doctors can detect electrical activity in tissue that will become the heart as the embryo develops.
Unterman played a key role in shepherding the abortion restrictions through the state Senate and was “the only woman to vote in favor of the legislation” in her chamber, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The senator is chairwoman of the chamber’s Science and Technology Committee, which heard and passed the bill.
“Preserving the sanctity of life beginning at conception has been the cornerstone of my legislative tenure,” the anti-abortion Republican said in a statement on the ban last month. The statement touted her record of anti-abortion rights legislation in Georgia, which Rewire News said includes co-sponsoring a law to fund crisis pregnancy centers, which are often run by religious organizations and give deceptive information about a woman’s reproductive rights.
Georgia currently has the highest rate of maternal mortality in the country, according to the Journal-Constitution.
Democrats have vowed to use the vote to defeat Republicans in the 2020 election, pointing to the growing number of suburban women who voted in 2018 and helped Democrats win multiple seats from Republican lawmakers in Atlanta and nationwide. The district Unterman is running in covers an area northeast of downtown Atlanta, stretching into parts of Forsyth and Gwinnett counties.
“Renee Unterman is a direct threat to women ― to our health and to our fundamental right to control our own bodies,” Carolyn Bourdeaux, former state Senate budget director and a Democrat who’s vying for the same seat, said in a statement. “Senator Unterman is the architect of the law that would subject women and their doctors to criminal prosecution and lengthy prison sentences for terminating a pregnancy. Renee is out of step with the people of the 7th district, and we will not give her a platform to take her agenda to Washington.”
Bourdeaux came up short by 433 votes last election against Rep. Rob Woodall (R-Ga.) in what Roll Call said was the closest congressional election in the country in 2018. Woodall has announced he will not seek reelection 2020, and Roll Call listed the district as a toss-up.