Brian Kemp Refused to Discuss Abortion in Debate With Stacey Abrams

"It’s not my desire to go move the needle any further on this issue,” Kemp told the moderators.

Brian Kemp Refused to Discuss Abortion in Debate With Stacey Abrams
Photo:Pool (Getty Images)

For months now, Republicans on the campaign trail have attempted to distance themselves from their party’s disastrous state-level abortion bans. On Sunday night Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R)—who literally signed Georgia’s current, near-total abortion ban into law—continued the trend when asked whether he would sign further abortion restrictions into law, during a debate with the Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams. With the midterms just a week away, it was the second and last time the two went head-to-head on the debate stage.

“I’m not gonna say yes or no to any specific piece of legislation without seeing exactly what it’s doing. It’s not my desire to go move the needle any further on this issue,” Kemp told the moderators. He emphasized that Georgia is “a state that values life,” and added, “I personally don’t see a need to go back, but when you’re governor, you have to deal with all kinds of legislative issues that are out there”—another non-answer. His ambiguous responses on Sunday are, if anything, a disturbing step backward: Earlier this month, at their first debate, Kemp said “it’s not my desire to” enact further abortion restrictions.

Given Kemp’s history of attacking reproductive rights, it’s laughable that he’s now attempting to distance himself from the same abortion legislation that he worked to pass. Georgia’s abortion ban, first signed into law by Kemp in 2019 but blocked from taking effect until Roe fell in June, is the first in the nation to formally establish fetal personhood, conferring legal rights upon literal embryos that supersede the rights of pregnant people. He’s even been caught on a hot mic advocating for restrictions on IVF treatments and banning plan B.

Of course, Kemp’s cowardly refusal to publicly speak on abortion at Sunday’s debate isn’t surprising—all polling indicates just how unpopular abortion bans are among voters, and Republican candidates are clearly stressed. Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters literally deleted the page supporting abortion bans from his campaign website in August. Days later, Tom Barrett, a Republican Congressional nominee in Michigan, also scrubbed his website of any mention of abortion. In September, another Republican candidate refused to give any yes or no answers when asked whether he supported abortion bans, ultimately concluding, “I would say yes, abortion policy.”

In contrast with Kemp at Sunday night’s debate, Abrams—who’s previously expertly explained why language calling six-week abortion bans “fetal heartbeat” bans is inaccurate—was more than prepared to answer abortion-related questions. “Let’s be clear: He did not say he wouldn’t [support more restrictive abortion bills],” she said of Kemp’s response. “There should not be arbitrary timelines set by men who do not understand biology. This is a law that tells women they have to make a decision about their pregnancy before they know they’re pregnant, in a state with 82 counties without an OBGYN.”

Abrams also slammed Kemp for his support of Herschel Walker, Georgia’s Republican Senate nominee who allegedly paid for two women’s abortions despite his public, adamantly “pro-life” stance: “[Kemp] refuses to defend us and yet he defended Herschel Walker, saying that he didn’t want to be involved in the personal life of his running mate, but he doesn’t mind being involved in the personal medical choices of women in Georgia.”

Abrams also pointed out that Georgia’s fetal personhood abortion ban, currently being challenged in court, opens the door for investigations into people who experience miscarriage or stillbirth. “Brian Kemp does not have a plan for the lives of the women who are being forced to carry pregnancies to term that are unwanted pregnancies,” she said. “But more importantly, he refuses to protect us, he refuses to defend us.”

The latest polls show Kemp holding a steep, 52 to 43 percent advantage over Abrams.

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