ATLANTA -- The leaders of pro-choice chapters at the state’s universities were at the Capitol Wednesday to lobby against Senate Bill 98 which would prohibit the insurance plans sold to Georgians through a health exchange from covering elective abortion.
“That’s ridiculous, absurd,” said Bess Neumeister, a recent psychology graduate of Georgia Southern University who’s returned to her home in Atlanta to find a job.
At age 26, she is no longer covered under her parents’ insurance, so she recently purchased a plan from a health exchange, and she wants abortion as a choice.
The 17 students are leaders in the group Choice USA. Their meeting was coordinated by Planned Parenthood, which offered advice on approaching legislators.
Somner Woods, a Georgia Southern sophomore from Louisville, Kentucky, said one argument against the bill is the financial costs of child raising.
“If you already have a bunch of kids and you have to take care of another one, then nobody’s benefitting from the situation,” she said.
The students planned to also draw from their science courses.
“You can think about it from a biological standpoint. Conception itself, when it occurs, that’s only two or three cells,” Neumeister said. “That’s not a life. You lose that many cells day to day just from your skin.”
Supporters of SB 98 say conception does create a life which the government has a role in protecting.
“The pro-life people are concerned about that, the protection of innocent life,” said Sen. William Ligon, R-Brunswick. “We believe that life begins at conception and that that life is a worthy life, and it should have the protection of law and that person should be given the opportunity to fulfill their potential.”
Choice USA field associate Andrew Jenkins said the students didn’t expect to change any minds but to make sure the concerns of young adults were heard during the final eight days of the 2014 legislative session.
“It’s also feeling involved with the problem,” Neumeister added. “Down in Statesboro, you don’t feel like you’re connected a lot of the time.”
University of Georgia junior Kathryn Leamon, of Suwanee, Ga. and majoring in biology and women’s studies, worries that the bill has no exception for incest or rape since she was herself raped. Although the rape didn’t make her pregnant, she would have wanted that choice.
“I probably would have gotten an abortion. I did not consent to having a child. I did not consent to having sex,” she said. “So, I don’t see why I should be punished.”
During debate on the bill, supporters argued that the baby resulting from a rape shouldn’t be punished either, and certainly not with a death sentence. Asked to respond to that argument, Leamon said it is unfair for government to require a woman undergo months of discomfort.
“You have to keep in mind that pregnancy lasts nine months. It’s not an easy experience,” she said. “You’re asking to put a woman through all that and the trauma she’s already experienced.”
The young women, and male students, spent the afternoon weaving through the halls between professional lobbyists, class field trips and legislative aides to catch up with lawmakers. Their plan was to return to their campuses and take what they’ve learned to encourage other students to become active.