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Tuesday, April 1, 2014 - 1:50pm

Georgia's Anti-Abortion Lobby Goes To Battle With Itself

A national pro-life group has ousted a Georgia chapter as its official affiliate in favor of a new group. And in the fallout of the decision, which was made public over the weekend, some are saying it’s about politics.

At issue is how far a group should push its agenda and how much compromise is necessary.

The National Right to Life Committee said it voted Saturday to replace Georgia Right to Life with the Georgia Life Alliance as its official affiliate. The Committee cited GRTL lobbying efforts undertaken last year as the cause for the split.

In a statement, the national group’s president, Carol Tobias, said GRTL was out of step with the national anti-abortion agenda.

“It is rare for a longstanding state affiliate to be replaced on the Board, and it is action never undertaken lightly,” she said. “However, Georgia Right to Life last year demanded that members of the U.S. House of Representatives vote against National Right to Life’s top-priority federal legislation, the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, and subsequently praised some House members who did in fact join with pro-abortion congressmen to vote against that landmark bill.”

Many prominent political Republicans support Tobias’s statement. Brandon Howell, a veteran of political campaigns and a contributor to the Georgia Tipsheet, explains the shift this way:

“The move means Georgia Right to Life, long considered one of the most polarizing chapters in the nation due to its refusal to endorse candidates or pro-life legislation that allows for exceptions due to rape, incest, or the life of the mother, is no longer involved with the national group.”

Red State’s Erick Erickson also backs the move. He’s part of GLA and posted this message on his Web site:

“I have been calling for a new pro-life organization in Georgia since GRTL sided with Planned Parenthood and other abortion rights groups to oppose the 20 week abortion ban in the U.S. House of Representatives,” he said. “GRTL has held its head up and said it took a hard line position and suggested other pro-life groups were going soft.”

Georgia Right to Life co-executive director Genevieve Wilson, however, pushed back at the notion that the group is taking a niche or extreme position.

"We don’t see anything extreme about working to protect all groups of innocent life, whether its children born through rape or incest, or the disabled, or the elderly," she said. "This is what the people of Georgia support and want."

Some Georgia Tea Party members are also scoffing at the suggestion that GRTL is outside of the mainstream. Debbie Dooley is a co-chair of the Atlanta Tea Party, and she said Georgia Life Alliance’s political connections are the reason for its ascendancy. And she denounced the national group and its decision.

“Most party activists see them as an establishment, RINO-protection organization,” she said, using the term for Republican In Name Only. “They are not viewed well by Tea Party activists.”

Dooley says Georgia Life Alliance has support from such influential leaders as House Speaker David Ralston. A spokesman for the Blue Ridge Republican declined to comment for this story.

In certain conservative Republican circles, the race to the Right can wind up excluding elected officials as mainstream as Ralston.

But Dooley defended her stance, saying the national group supports a lot of Republicans who are not 100 percent pro-life, and that’s not honest. Those Republicans include New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

“NRTL is used by ‘Chamber of Commerce’ Republicans,” she said.

Other Tea Party supporters have also been rallying around Georgia Right To Life. Congressman Paul Broun told the AJC’s Political Insider column that the move by the national group has done nothing to marginalize GRTL.

“Georgia Right to Life is very well-respected by people throughout the state who are concerned about this issue,” he said. “So I don’t think their standing amongst Georgians is going to be diminished one bit.”

Emily Matson, a spokeswoman for GLA said the group welcomes the endorsement with “humility and great respect.”

“We will work diligently to support the goals and objectives of the NRLC while also advancing the cause for life in the State of Georgia,” she said in a statement. “There is much, much work to be done.”

Notably, the GLA won’t immediately be making political endorsements. GTRL, on the other hand, is actively endorsing candidates in the upcoming Georgia primary, and the national and state general election later this year.

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