Gov. Brian Kemp mostly stuck to his campaign script Thursday morning as he delivered a speech at the Family Research Council’s 2022 Pray Vote Stand for Life Summit in Atlanta, which was long on his past accomplishments but short on the abortion policies he would pursue if re-elected.
Founded in 1983, the Family Research Council is a right-wing Christian group that campaigns against abortion and LGBTQ rights. In 2010, the Southern Poverty Law Center called the council a hate group, citing baseless smear campaigns against LGBTQ people.
Democrats were quick to condemn the appearance.
“Today, Kemp lends his voice to a designated hate group known for malicious and extreme anti-LGBTQ advocacy,” said state Sen. Kim Jackson, a Stone Mountain Democrat and the first and only openly LGBTQ senator. of State. “The FRC has equated LGBTQ Americans with pedophiles and said that homosexuality embodies hatred against religion – as an Episcopal priest and member of the LGBTQ community, I can tell you firsthand how strong these views are. false, sectarian and extreme. It shouldn’t be too much for LGBTQ Georgians to ask our Governor not to align himself with hate groups and be complicit in bigotry against us.
Kemp’s speech to the group did not mention LGBTQ issues. Instead, he touted his administration’s record: The state reopened quickly after the pandemic’s initial shutdown despite skepticism, GOP lawmakers passed sweeping ballot legislation without giving in to “wake up” voters. companies and First Lady Marty Kemp led the state crackdown on human trafficking.
Kemp gave relatively short notice to an achievement the crowd seemed to really appreciate: his signing of the 2019 bill that went into effect this year after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade. Under it, most abortions are illegal in Georgia after fetal heart activity is detected early in pregnancy, usually around six weeks.
“We also protected the sanctity of God’s greatest gift, life,” Kemp said. “As parents of three daughters, as a family of faith, and as a small business owner for over 35 years, Marty and I will continue to work hard every day for hard-working Georgians and future generations. , because we believe that we must protect life at many stages.
Kemp quickly moved on from the abortion bill to other accomplishments.
“You know, we passed a heartbeat bill here, but we also did adoption reform,” he said. “We made a reform of the foster family. I mentioned our human trafficking efforts. We passed a huge mental health parity law last year. And we also worked very hard in 2019 to make sure we were protecting the lives of our students, administrators, and teachers in the classroom.
The governor announced his education priorities for the 2023 legislative session if re-elected. He said how he would like to spend the state’s $5 billion surplus. But Democrats say he has yet to answer key questions about the abortion ban and the state’s future after Roe.
“Kemp has previously said he believes abortion should be banned, with no exceptions for victims of rape or incest,” Sen. Elena Parent of the Democratic state of Atlanta told a conference in press last week. “Again, very disconnected from the majority of Georgians. Disturbingly, he has repeatedly refused to answer crucial questions about how his extreme ban on abortion could lead to investigations of women and prosecutions of doctors for seeking and providing health care. ‘abortion. So now, as he joins a group of extremists who want to roll back the rights of millions of Americans, Georgians deserve answers on questions that could impact their health, lives and freedom, like Brian Kemp supports a nationwide abortion ban like the hardline senators he campaigns with?
It’s a tricky balancing act for Kemp, who casts himself as an armed Christian conservative in a state that trailed the left in recent elections.
A July Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll found that 42% of Georgians were more likely to vote for a candidate who wants to protect access to abortion, while only 26% said they would prefer a candidate who wants to limit access to abortion.
And while many conservatives sing Kemp’s praises for helping to enshrine abortion restrictions into law, others have called for him to go further and ban the practice altogether.
Polls show Kemp with a small but steady lead in her re-election race against Democrat Stacey Abrams, with an average advantage of 5.3%, according to Real Clear Politics. But a Quinnipiac poll released on Wednesday said the race was too close to announce, with Kemp getting 50% of the vote to Abrams’ 48%.
On Thursday, Kemp’s office did not respond to an emailed question asking whether he would seek new abortion restrictions if reelected.
“We’ve spent 50 years to get to where we are now, we don’t want to blow everything up in 50 weeks”
Speaking at a roundtable just after Kemp’s remarks on Thursday, South Carolina state senator Josh Kimbrell said at the council summit that he advised politicians to stay mum on the subject. future restrictions.
“Many of you are involved with your elected officials. Some of you are elected. We spent 50 years trying to turn Roe against Wade. It’s awesome. I understand the impatience,” he said. “I’m just going to say, from a messaging perspective, we’ve taken 50 years to get to where we are right now, we don’t want to blow it all up in 50 weeks. And some messages are bad. And we have to stop talking about it – we let the media control this narrative.
Kimbrell said that instead of answering questions from the media about their future plans, anti-abortion activists should reframe the issue to paint their opponents as bloodthirsty killers.
He gave the example of two Republican members of the South Carolina State Senate with opposing views on abortion. One wanted it to be legal, he said, and will see funding for his caucus cut for the next election cycle.
“I had another guy in our caucus who has a big heart, but he basically says, I want to put moms in jail,” he said. “Okay, those are two extremes that we don’t need to tolerate, ladies and gentlemen, because if we’re going to start putting moms in jail, we’re going to lose the public debate.”
“That’s my message to everyone,” he added. “Do not make the perfect the enemy of the good. Stop letting them talk about what we’re going to do. Let’s talk about what they want to do, which is to let these children be killed until the day they are born.
Panel moderator Connor Semelsberger, the council’s director of federal affairs, said Kimbrell “hit the nail on the head.”
“If you are all here for the same purpose, which is to protect unborn children in the womb, to value mothers and fathers – every child, as we heard last night, has a mother and a father – to support and value them and we must be united. And as you said, we cannot let perfection be the enemy of good. If we can gain ground, if we can save as many lives unborn as we can today, we have to do it and keep pushing the ball forward. And that’s what we’re trying to do in South Carolina, and that’s what state legislators across the countries are trying to do, so that’s a great overview of what we’re up against.