GRTL Purifies Itself Into Irrelevance

This week’s Courier Herald column:

Georgia Right To Life last week decided that it would oppose the first significant pro-life measure before Congress in a decade.  They declared that they and anyone else who wants to be pro-life must be pure and without exception when supporting pro-life legislation.  In doing so, they demanded those who seek their favor in the future must side with them, and not National Right To Life nor the many that consider themselves pro-life but also understand the value in advancing legislation that would save 99.4% of the children who would otherwise not be born.

The truth is, Georgia Right To Life has long been one to move the goalposts on this issue.  After a majority of “pro-life” legislators were elected using their own scorecard which allowed exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother, GRTL changed the rules instead of securing legislation that matched their pledges.  That is a key sign of an organization that seeks its own relevance rather than a solution.

In the decade that followed, this trend continued.  While most non-political types view the “life” issue as one of abortion, GRTL is now more concerned about banning in vitro fertilization and research into human-animal “chimera” hybrids.  That’s correct.  Georgia Right To Life now puts on equal footing the need to stop someone from trying to create a human horse hybrid with the attempt to save the lives of the unborn.

Understanding this is key to understanding GRTL’s demand that Georgia Congressmen oppose last week’s house bill which would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy – a so called “fetal pain” bill as it is estimated 20 weeks is the time when unborn infants can feel pain.  Paul Broun, in one of his many moments of self-aggrandizing “principle” attempted to get his name off a bill he was co-sponsoring and ultimately voted against it as did Georgia’s 7th district Rob Woodall.  But the rest of Georgia’s pro-life Republican Congressmen – including Senate candidates Phil Gingrey and Jack Kingston – voted for the bill which passed the house largely on party lines.

GRTL’s reasoning is that “If all aren’t protected, then none are protected” in justifying opposition to the bill that contained exceptions for rape and incest – pregnancies that account for just six tenths of one percent of those in this category.  Never mind that “all” aren’t protected under this bill either, as those younger than 20 weeks still fall outside of this bill’s protections.  It’s just one of the many logical inconsistencies that observers of GRTL have become far too used too, and that many are now growing tired of.

The AJC’s conservative columnist Kyle Wingfield has called for “an intervention” with Georgia Right To Life. and WSB’s Erick Erickson has gone a step further, calling for the formation of a new group to replace GRTL, referring to them as “The Westboro Baptist Church of the Pro-Life Movement”.

The curious part of all of this is an open letter that GRTL President Dan Becker posted on their website after the vote.  Each Congressman that voted against it was mentioned on a separate line, but Karen Handel – not a member of Congress but one who did publicly indicate support of the measure prior to the vote – was singled out for two entire paragraphs.  One of their attacks made a jump from Handel’s support for in vitro fertilization to an alleged support of abortion within 14 days of conception – a charge Handel flatly denies and there is no evidence to support.

It is clear that GRTL is not only at war with the majority within the pro-life movement, but is fixated on a battle with Karen Handel.  After all, three of the four announced candidates for US Senate in Georgia now share her views on how to advance pro-life legislation – and do not feel beholden to the decrees by whim of GRTL.

But it is Handel with whom GRTL decided to draw a line in the sand in 2010 – endorsing all other gubernatorial candidates but her because she refused to bow to Dan Becker.  He called her “barren” and “infertile” to the AJC, and confirmed doing so to WSB TV’s Lori Geary – but said into the camera that those comments were “off the record.”  He now denies saying what was said so clearly.

The public statements continue to underline what appears to be an organization that is simultaneously struggling with the truth and its own relevance. The inconsistencies also seem to indicate leadership of GRTL has a much more flexible view of Exodus 20:16 than it says it does about when life begins.

From the late eighties until very recently, there was a time when Georgia Right To Life was the defacto voice for social conservatives in Georgia.  Their grip on power has been slipping for some time, but the reign officially ended last week.  The majority of the candidates running for the top of the ticket race in Georgia next year chose the side that would save the most unborn children, not the side of an organization that has purified itself into irrelevance.

A once proud organization has reduced itself to no longer winning hearts and minds, but instead is now consumed by tangential issues and unattainable extremes.  More importantly, prominent social conservatives are no longer willing to tolerate those who have reduced themselves to being money changers in the temple.

The calls to replace this organization should be heeded.  It is time to rejoin the battle to win hearts and minds.


  1. Scott65 says:

    This discussion is a lose/lose for republicans every time it comes up. Anti-choice people vote republican (those for which this is their #1 issue)…they are already there in the base. Also, contrary to what anyone says…they will vote. In so far as this is a discussion amongst the anti-choice crowd to try and come up with a consensus, fine, but anything that breaks outside of that is seen as a distraction and hostile to independent women voters (remember the ones that left Romney in droves). You will change no minds on choice…those lines have long been drawn. GRTL’s position only brings it back by painting republicans as the party of intolerance (whether deserved or not). That you feel you needed to write this piece is evidence of that.

    • Harry says:

      We are and will change minds on infanticide. People are becoming better informed on the consequences of “choice” and public opinion is shifting despite the best efforts of Planned Parenthood etc. to obfuscate the issue.

  2. Rick Day says:

    When Right to Life includes abolishing the death penalty, I’ll be one of the first to contribute. Until then, the movement is about Right to Life in only certain hypocritical circumstances.

    And none of this still addresses how much prison time a woman should spend for violating these laws, and the very real issue of illegal abortions.

    Blowback: didn’t you alleged pro-lifers learn the lessons of Iraq?

    • pettifogger says:

      I have never understood this argument. Well, I guess I “understand” it, I just find it so weak I am surprised it is used so frequently.

      Right to Life, as I understand it, opposes the practice of child/fetus destruction for convenience. I say convenience because ultimately such acts account for what, 95% of abortions? There are varying levels of compelling situations within that category, but “unwanted pregnancies” are usually not the result of anything but consensual activities. There is no punishment angle. Nor is there much of a societal safety/order argument, although I guess you could make make an extenuated one.

      Personally, I’m opposed to the DP (although I hesitate at times) because I do not think the government is very good at most things, and I’d prefer they not make choices of such magnitude most of the time. Further, I think the DP, in practice, rarely provides the relief sought (long delays leading to delayed justice and life changes in the convicted). Nonetheless, I find the abortion-DP comparison to be a bizarre argument.

    • Doug Deal says:

      Maybe it shouldn’t be called “Pro Choice” until it is about choising more than whether or not to extinguish the life of a fetus.

      How about choising where your kids go to school, or whether you want health insurance? Oh yeah, it’s not about choice, it’s only about abortion.

      • griftdrift says:

        Maybe it shouldn’t be called limited government until it stops forcing women to receive ultrasounds, receive “counseling” and wait 24 hours to have a procedure she and her doctor agrees is in her interest.

  3. xdog says:

    “there was a time when Georgia Right To Life was the defacto voice for social conservatives in Georgia.”
    I agree but GRTL has been crazy for much of that time and that’s never stopped goper pragmatists from sucking up for their vote.

  4. George Chidi says:

    In the 2012 election in Missouri, Romney won the state and won roughly 2 out of 3 white voters. But in the Todd Akin-Claire McCaskill Senate race there, a quarter of white male Romney voters and a third of white women crossed parties to vote for McCaskill. Joe Donnelly beat Richard Mourdock by six points after similarly stupid comments in Indiana. Romney won the state, but one out of six white male Romney voters crossed over to vote for Donnelly, as did 22 percent of white female Romney voters.

    It’s safe to assume that if Broun or his ilk is nominated – and does something stupid — a Democratic candidate could scoop up disaffected Republicans. The margin between Romney and Obama in Georgia last year could have been made up with a 150,000-vote swing out of 3.9 million cast. There are about 1.6 million white women registered to vote in Georgia, three-quarters of whom usually vote Republican. About half of them typically vote in an off-year race in which perhaps 2.2 million votes overall might be expected to be cast. Democratic constituencies generally underperform presidential election years, but still.

    I’m cheering on Broun and Gingrey because they’re the most likely to say stupid things and open the door for a Democrat … but even Karen Handel is capable of uttering stupid things at this point, just to keep up. That’s what’s driving her camp nuts right now, literally — they’re being forced to compete with crazy.

  5. JeffHaffley says:

    GRTL is setting the standard. The house vote was clear political grand-standing. There is no way the Senate would pass this bill and NO way Obama would sign it.
    Therefore it’s just plain silly to attack our own like this over a statement vote. I’d like to know why the House didn’t vote on a no exceptions bill.

    • Baker says:

      If no exceptions is the official party stance (and a vote confirming this would be more so than anything written on a platform) then the “War on Women™” kicks right back up again. A very high majority of people are opposed to no exceptions. It’s not good politics. I daresay a majority of Republicans are opposed to no exceptions. That’s why.

  6. HarryA says:

    If you look at a 8 1/2 x 11 inch sheet of paper, divide it in half, then divide it in half again, then this quarter remnant is less than GRTL’s influence in the population. By demanding that this be the criteria for elected officials is an example of the type of religious fervor that led to the Inquisition.
    I can explain why this attitude is incorrect, I can’t make you understand when you are close minded to begin with.

  7. Doug Deal says:

    Groups like GTRL have done more to perpetuate the status quo on abortion than anything NARAL has done. Even hard core Democrats are opposed to the abortions that more resemble infanticide, even if they disagree strongly on earlier abortions. The life at conception argument will never win the day and as long as this is the litmus test for support, the status quo will endure.

    Of course, I hope every year we start worrying more about things we can actually improve, instead of beating our heads against a rock on something that is too split and charged to do much about. Perhaps step one in changing laws should be convincing people that you are right instead of calling them “baby killer”?

  8. James Fannin says:

    It really isn’t all that hard to understand why the misogynistic leader of Georgia Right to Life would be so fixated on Karen Handel. His attacks on her during the Republican primary were so over-the-top that while she was barely defeated by Deal by a two thousand votes, Becker found himself exposed throughout the state as a thoroughly nasty human being. Recognizing that he had inflicted irreparable harm on his organization he obviously resented Karen Handel for being an uppity woman and fighting back and blamed her for the reputational damage he had inflicted on himself and on his organization. So one can imagine how completely unhinged Dan Becker must be to find that the woman he vilified and not sufficiently pro-choice is now considered a national leader in the pro-life movement because of the principled stand she took against Planned Parenthood.

    The national right to life movement is about stopping abortion and by taking on directly the nation’s biggest abortion provider, Handel has done far more to further the pro-life cause than Becker has or will ever accomplish and he is behaving exactly as one would expect – jealously lashing out, fixated on Karen Handel rather than the cause and once again diminishing not only his own reputation and the reputation of GTRL but doing irreparable damage to the pro-life movement. As Karen Handel moves ahead with her campaign and gains traction among Georgia’s voters including those many pro-life voters who applaud her leadership in the fight against Planned Parenthood, look for Mr. Becker’s obsession with Karen to become even crazier – if that is possible.

  9. Vision and Values says:

    GRTL has been a very successful organization. I am thankful for it’s principled approach.
    #1. GRTL has consistently won approx. 80-85% of its elections in recent years!
    #2. GRTL, since (2000) enacting it’s NO Rape and Incest endorsement policy have helped Republicans gain solid majorities in both chambers! And Republican Governors endorsed by GRTL have won 3 straight elections!
    #3. GRTL endorsed all the Georgia Constitutional officers who ran for State office in 2010 and ALL were elected with NO Rape and Incest exceptions!
    #4. GRTL has been supporting pro-life legislation (at least 8 bills) with no Rape and Incest exceptions, starting with “The Woman’s Right to Know” (2005) and the Fetal Pain bill last year!
    #5. GRTL has helped the state of GA to be consistently ranked as one of the top pro-life states in the nation. This year we they were recognized AUL as a “2013 All-Star State.”
    #6. GRTL helped in getting the Personhood Amendment on the Republican Primary ballot in 2012 and it passed by a 2-1 margin! 66% of GA Republicans said they were in favor of a Personhood Amendment which has no Rape and Incest exceptions in it! 158 out of 159 counties passed it!
    #7. GRTL has helped Ga. earn a grade of “F” from NARAL Pro-choice America.
    These are just a some of the accomplishments. We can all be thankful for these.

Comments are closed.