MARIETTA, GEORGIA — Wearing pink Planned Parenthood t-shirts and holding tablets armed with lists of Democratic voters, canvassers in the northern Atlanta suburbs on Tuesday morning prepared to explain to voters exactly how much is on the line in Tuesday’s special election.
Specifically, access to reproductive health care hangs in the balance. With Republican majorities in Congress preparing to vote in the coming weeks to defund Planned Parenthood, the largest women’s health provider in the country, flipping Georgia’s sixth congressional seat to Democrat candidate Jon Ossoff would send a strong message to Washington that reproductive health is a winning issue, even in deep red states.
Porsha White, the public policy manager for Georgia with Planned Parenthood Southeast Advocates, told ThinkProgress that electing Ossoff would make the organization a little more optimistic about where Washington is headed.
“If you run great candidates and if you pick candidates that are strong on reproductive health care, then maybe we could help turn the tide later.”
“This race of course won’t flip Congress, but it would hopefully be a trigger for other states to understand that if you run great candidates and if you pick candidates that are strong on reproductive health care, then maybe we could help turn the tide later,” she said.
Ossoff lists women’s health as a priority on his campaign website and frequently talks about his commitment to defending access to contraception and abortion services. He also says he will defend Planned Parenthood in Congress, although he declined to say whether he would risk a government shutdown to preserve federal funding for the organization — a possibility that could be looming when Congress returns from its recess, since Planned Parenthood often becomes a political football in budget negotiations.
“I’m not going to make firm commitments on hypothetical upcoming votes before Tuesday night,” Ossoff told ThinkProgress. “But I will say that my commitment to reproductive health and family planning, as essential to the health of this community, is very strong.”
White also said she is undecided on whether a shutdown would be effective or necessary. “We’ll see if he decides to hold that line,” she said.
Meanwhile, all of the eleven Republican candidates running for the Georgia seat — which was left vacant when President Trump nominated Tom Price to lead the Department of Health and Human Services — have expressed at least some hesitation about preserving abortion access. David Abroms, the only GOP candidate who has denounced Trump, told ThinkProgress he would work to lower the number of abortions performed in the country and would focus on increasing awareness about adoption.
To Planned Parenthood and its supporters in Georgia, that stance is not adequate. And they are hoping it could be enough to help Ossoff defy the odds. According to a recent Pew Research Center survey, Americans think that Democratic lawmakers would do a better job dealing with issues related to abortion and contraception than Republican lawmakers by 20 points.
Adele Ishmael, a 23-year-old Georgia State student and a canvasser with Planned Parenthood, told ThinkProgress Tuesday that she wants Georgia to elect a lawmaker who will fight for Planned Parenthood.
“The fact that we have been almost defunded so many different times, there’s kind of that frightening aura in the air that we might still get defunded,” she said. “It’s really important that we do elect someone who is going to stand behind us.”