Georgia Democrats hope abortion can help them win in November To make up some ground in the Georgia race for governor, Stacey Abrams is hoping to harness any energy around abortion rights by pointing to success on the issue in Kansas and appealing to emotions.

Stacey Abrams is behind in the polls and looking to abortion rights to help her win

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DAVID GURA, HOST:

In the rematch between incumbent Republican Governor Brian Kemp and Democrat Stacey Abrams in Georgia, Abrams is trailing in the polls. But because Georgia's 2019 abortion law, which bans most abortions around six weeks of pregnancy, just took effect, Abrams has renewed energy around her campaign. Georgia Public Broadcasting's Riley Bunch has more.

RILEY BUNCH, BYLINE: On a Wednesday afternoon in the basement of Stacey Abrams' campaign headquarters, a small group of women gathered for an intimate conversation.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: If someone would like to offer a word that you think of when you think of the experience that you went through.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Heart-wrenching.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Heart-wrenching.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #3: Vulnerability, just being at your most vulnerable.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #4: Incredibly sad.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #5: Unbearable.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Unbearable.

BUNCH: The Democratic candidate for governor sat with a grim look on her face as she listened to six women share their personal stories of miscarriage. One of those women was Jana Glass.

JANA GLASS: The worst place to be vulnerable and pregnant is in the state of Georgia.

BUNCH: The recently enacted abortion law has sparked conversations like this one across the state. Some worry that the law could lead to people who have miscarriages being investigated for murder, although the law doesn't explicitly state that. But controversial language that gives an embryo rights has raised legal questions. Republicans, like incumbent Governor Brian Kemp, cheered when a federal court upheld the state's law.

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BRIAN KEMP: We are overjoyed that the court has paved the way for the implementation of Georgia's LIFE Act.

BUNCH: But Georgia Democrats are eyeing a potential boost at the ballot box over the issue. The party hopes anger over the new law will mobilize their base and even win over some swing voters. They have reason to be hopeful. In deeply conservative Kansas, voters recently turned up in droves to vote down a state constitutional amendment that would have dissolved abortion rights. Abrams says that moment gave her hope.

STACEY ABRAMS: What that signals to us here in Georgia is that we have the same power. We are not a hyper-conservative state. We are a divided state. But that division disappears when you look at what's happening around the issue of abortion.

BUNCH: Polling by the University of Georgia does show that a majority of voters here were against the Supreme Court's rollback of federal abortion rights. In July, more of their research showed that 55% of voters in the state disapprove of the new law. But abortion rights opponents say they're skeptical that the issue will have a measurable impact on the outcome of the election.

MARTHA ZOLLER: I think people that are pro-life are already voting Republican, and people that are pro-choice are already voting Democrat.

BUNCH: That's Martha Zoller, executive director of the Georgia Life Alliance. The group helped draft the abortion law in 2019. She says issues like the economy and inflation are more pressing for voters. But Democratic state Representative Shea Roberts thinks Republicans are being quiet about abortion for another reason.

SHEA ROBERTS: They're trying to stay away from it because they know it's a polarizing issue. And I think they know that it's a weakness that could impact the November midterms.

BUNCH: In 2020, Roberts narrowly beat a Republican incumbent in a suburban Atlanta district. This time around, she's focusing her campaign on reaching Republican women on the issue of abortion. She even shared her own abortion story in an opinion piece for Fox News about the decision to terminate a pregnancy after bloodwork showed the baby would not survive outside the womb.

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ROBERTS: I'm hoping that people understand, yes, there are economic issues that need to be addressed right now, but this is fundamental freedom.

BUNCH: To find someone who would change their mind on such a deeply polarized topic, you don't have to look far.

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ABRAMS: And I evolved on this issue because I learned more.

BUNCH: Stacey Abrams is the daughter of two retired United Methodist pastors who raised her to oppose abortion rights but says she had a change of heart when she went to college.

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ABRAMS: And what I understand is that abortion is not a political decision. It is a medical choice.

BUNCH: Georgia is not the only place where abortion rights could be a key issue in November. Planned Parenthood recently announced a $50 million investment to mobilize around the issue nationwide. For NPR News, I'm Riley Bunch in Atlanta.

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