The 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade was on the minds of Georgia's state senators Monday morning.  

Senators used the occasion to call attention to Senate Resolution 136, a Democrat-penned amendment to the state’s constitution that recognizes a woman’s right to reproductive freedom. 

Democratic Sen. Nikki Merritt (D-Grayson) weighed in.

"I speak for the women of color whose voices have been silenced and disregarded by so many generations of legislators before me whose paths in life have been dictated by circumstances out of their control," Merritt said. "I rise for the 4 out of 5 Black mothers in Georgia who are the breadwinners and cornerstones of their families."

"The more we restrict reproductive freedom, the more we tell women we don't trust them to make decisions and plans for their own families," Merritt continued. "Instead of treating women like adults, politicians here at the Gold Dome think that they should make medical decisions for us, as if we're not capable of good judgment."

Sen. Sheikh Rahman agreed.

"Polling over the past year shows most Georgians do not support our current abortion law," he said. "Georgian do not want this law. Georgians want more reproductive freedoms, less government interference and the right to make decisions with their doctors. It is our duty to allow the people to make this decision for themselves... by passing Senate Resolution 136."

But Sen. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) used his own personal history in his counter. He recalled how his parents adopted him from his single birth mother in 1970, "a 20-year-old mother, college student, before abortion was broadly legal in this country," he said. "And because she had no plans to raise me with my birth father, showed grace and laid me into the hands of a 27-year-old pastor and his wife, who for years and years had cried themselves to sleep at night because they couldn't have kids."

State Sen. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) speaks in the Georgia Senate on Jan. 22, 2024.

State Sen. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth) speaks in the Georgia Senate on Jan. 22, 2024.

Credit: GPB

During the lunchtime break, Democrats in the House and Senate held a news conference to honor the Roe v. Wade anniversary.    

Rep. Shea Roberts (D-Atlanta) said, "We will stop at nothing to restore reproductive freedom. That means using every tool in our toolbox, including enshrining fundamental protections for reproductive freedom into Georgia law, repealing harmful abortion restrictions that create barriers to care, and making it easier for all Georgians to get the care they need."

House members highlighted two pieces of legislation they said will increase reproductive freedom in Georgia. 

The first is House Bill 75, filed last year, which expands abortion access. A Senate version of the bill was filed as well. The second is SR 136, which was also brought up on the Senate floor.   

"We seek to uphold that legacy of respect and dignity in health care by allowing women and their families to decide what is best for themselves," said Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler (D-Stone Mountain).

Neither piece of legislation has received a committee hearing and is unlikely to pass.  

Fani Willis controversy sparks debate

Allegations of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ inappropriate use of funds prompted calls from the Georgia Senate for her removal from her case against former President Donald Trump.  

Willis is accused of having an inappropriate relationship with one of her prosecutors and wasting taxpayer dollars on lavish trips.  

"I believe by being in the relationship with Mr. Wade and not disclosing this relationship to the grand jury, it has resulted in fraud against the court and fraud against the taxpayers of Georgia," said Sen. Brandon Beech (R–Alpharetta). "In closing, Miss Willis, do the right thing and dismiss all charges and save Fulton County, the state of Georgia, and you and Mr. Wade any more embarrassment because of your poor judgment."

Sen. David Lucas (D–Macon) pushed back. 

"We are not to get started with this bull," he said. "For the senator who talked about Fani Willis, I support her. You don't know what the circumstances are. You don't know what a woman's scorn is. The reason there's a case [against Donald Trump] is because somebody did something wrong. And it's recorded. So let's don't bring that here."

Sen. Greg Dolezal (R-Cumming) filed legislation to launch a committee investigation into Willis.

Legislative actions

The Senate also passed a few bills Monday.

SB 159, a bill which would prohibit electronic communication devices beyond guard lines at correctional facilities, returned to the Senate.  

The bill passed last year in both the Senate and House, but the Senate rejected the House-amended version, which removed a mandatory 10-year sentence for those convicted of bringing banned electronic devices into a correctional facility.  

The bill’s author, Sen. Randy Robertson (R-Cataula), is now open to the change.  

"I we want to get real serious about keeping our prisons safe, keeping our jails safe not only for the men and women that work there, but for the men and women who are Georgia citizens, who have a right to a safe environment to live in and serve out their sentence or await due process, then this is the type of legislation that will help push that forward," he said.

The bill passed with bipartisan support, 43 to 7. 

The Senate also passed HB 571, a bill that would create an advisory board on Alzheimer’s and other dementia-related illnesses that will report their findings every four years to various state agencies.  

That passed unanimously, 51 to 0. 

In the House, members agreed to a Senate amendment to Senate Bill 35.  

The bill originally dealt with special license plates, but was amended to give Georgians on Medicaid glucose monitors.   

Lawmakers in both chambers celebrated the ‘Divine Nine’ historically Black fraternities and sororities and encouraged members to donate blood at Wednesday’s annual drive.  

On Tuesday, legislators recognize the 49th anniversary of the Japanese Consulate General in Atlanta on legislative Day 7.