By SAMANTHA SMITH, Staff Writer | Published February 2, 2022
ATLANTA—The Georgia General Assembly began its new legislative session on Monday, Jan. 10.
Despite political differences, excitement filled the state capitol in preparation of the evening University of Georgia championship game against the University of Alabama. The Georgia Bulldogs went on to beat Alabama’s Crimson Tide 33-18.
After the celebration, representatives began debates on various issues.
The Georgia Catholic Conference promotes public policy positions to the state government on behalf of the Archdiocese of Atlanta and the Diocese of Savannah. There are an estimated 1.2 million Catholics in the Atlanta Archdiocese and 80,000 in the southern diocese.
One of the more challenging pieces of legislation the conference is following this session is the Women’s Health and Safety Act, SB 351, explained Frank Mulcahy, executive director of the conference. The bill would severely restrict access to abortion-inducing pills.
Many abortion-inducing drugs are available online and use is expected to increase, said Mulcahy. In December, the Food and Drug Administration announced it would permanently remove restrictions on the pills, permitting them to be available by mail and prescribed by way of telehealth consultations. The FDA had temporarily allowed this provision earlier in 2021 amid the pandemic.
“This bill, SB 351, would require among other things that the woman go and be under the supervision of a licensed physician” to use abortion pills, he said.
Additional features of the bill include reporting requirements and prohibiting abortion-inducing drugs in school facilities and on state property.
The Supreme Court has yet to rule on Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a Mississippi case that challenges Roe v. Wade. Once that ruling is issued, there will likely be more legislation next year and in 2023, said Mulcahy.
The second major bill the conference is monitoring is HB 485, which would repeal the death penalty in the state.
“That’s a big step in Georgia,” said Mulcahy.
HB 1013, introduced by Speaker David Ralston, “is a reworking of the law as it relates to those with various mental health issues,” said the executive director.
The House bill would improve access to mental health services and the way the issue is addressed in Georgia by increasing the number of mental health professionals in the state, requiring insurance companies to cover mental health in the same manner they cover physical health and giving first responders assistance when they’re called upon for a mental health crisis.
The Georgia Catholic Conference plans to support all three bills during the current legislative session. Catholics can help to support these bills by contacting their representative, following the progress of the legislation online and attending hearings.
To find your representatives, follow these bills and receive updates from the Georgia Catholic Conference, visit georgiacc.org.