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June 19, 2013 3:36 PM The Conservative Petri Dish

By Ed Kilgore

If, as I have often suggested, Kansas and North Carolina are currently operating as sort of right-wing policy “laboratories” thanks to the highly-focused ideological nature of their Republican state legislative majorities, then my own home state of Georgia might be viewed as sort of a petri dish, where wingnuts don’t necessarily wield great power but do exert an immoderating influence on the GOP.

This is most obvious in terms of the politics of abortion. Real political junkies among you may recall that in 2010, a tight gubernatorial primary runoff between Nathan Deal and Karen Handel was by most accounts significantly affected by the exceptional hostility directed towards Handel by Georgia Right To Life, which did not take kindly to her opposition to legislation restricting embryo production at IV fertility clinics. That may seem ironic to those familiar with Handel’s later fame as the RTL martyr of a failed effort to eliminate ties between the Komen Foundation and Planned Parenthood. But antichoicers have different standards of purity in Georgia.

That became evident again this week when Georgia RTL broke with the National Right To Life Committee to oppose the “fetal pain” abortion bill on the House floor, as reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Daniel Malloy:

[T]he message of the last-minute flurry from GRTL was clear, as it urged its supporters to call their member of Congress to request a no vote on the “hijacked” bill.
“What they’ve done is target a particular class of children, those conceived in rape and incest,” [GRTL spox Suzanne] Ward said. “While Georgia Right to Life has the utmost sympathy for those victims, we can’t justify murder in those circumstances.”

And surprise, surprise, one of the co-sponsors of the original House bill, Rep. Paul Broun, denounced the bill and voted against it, carrying with him another Georgia colleague, Rep. Rob Woodall.

Broun, has you might recall, is running for the U.S. Senate in 2014, as is Karen Handel, and as are two other House Republicans from Georgia (Jack Kingston and Phil Gingrey) who went along with national RTL groups and voted for the “fetal pain” bill. Malloy figures Broun’s maneuver will earn him the GRTL endorsement later in the cycle.

As I’ve suggested for a while, whether or not Broun wins the GOP Senate nomination, he’s driving the whole field in a decidedly starboard direction. Perhaps it’s a coincidence, but on the same day that he risked the opprobrium of GRTL by voting for an unconstitutional abortion ban that didn’t go far enough, Phil Gingrey made a speech on the House floor suggesting that schools hold classes instructing kids on “traditional gender roles.”

That’s how Republicans roll down in Georgia.

Ed Kilgore is a contributing writer to the Washington Monthly. He is managing editor for The Democratic Strategist and a senior fellow at the Progressive Policy Institute. Find him on Twitter: @ed_kilgore.

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