HB481 in Georgia: A qualitative exploration
Awarded 2020
Complex Family Planning Fellowship Research
Nisha Verma, MD
Emory University

Background: Georgia (GA) is currently facing a crisis in maternal and reproductive health. The unintended pregnancy and teen pregnancy rates in GA surpass the national average, and GA leads the country in maternal mortality rates. In 2014, 96% of Georgia counties had no clinics that provided abortion, and 58% of GA women lived in those counties. NARAL has labelled GA a “severely restricted” state, with current restrictions including mandated counseling, waiting periods, parental notification, ultrasound requirements, the 20 week gestational age limit, and insurance coverage limitations. Most recently, GA passed HB481, the “Living Infants Fairness and Equality Act,” an almost complete abortion ban. The public discourse around HB481 in GA remains polarized, as does the larger abortion debate in the US. At the same time, recent survey and qualitative data has suggested that many people in the US feel alienated by the polarized discourse around abortion. This data suggests that people, in more nuanced discussion, demonstrate areas of internal conflict where the values, beliefs, emotions, identities, and lived experiences that shape their opinions are at odds. These areas of internal conflict may provide opportunities to shift opinions around abortion. GA’s 6th Congressional District, a district that recently made history by electing its first Democratic representative since 1978 and that is currently considered a community in flux, represents an important location to explore internal conflict and shifting public opinion in the state.
Objectives: Overall Research Question: What is the current state of knowledge and opinion on HB481 among residents of GA’s 6th Congressional District, and what areas of internal conflict exist that may create opportunities for shifts in opinion?
Design and Methods: This study will use a qualitative design. The target population is residents of GA’s 6th Congressional District who demonstrate some level of internal conflict on abortion based on a screening tool. Based on the screening tool, people will be invited to participate in semi-structured interviews. The semi-structured interviews will be designed to explore participant’s knowledge of and opinions on HB481 and the ways in which their values, beliefs, emotions, identities, and lived experiences interact to shape their opinions on the bill.
Potential Impact: More research is needed in GA to better understand residents’ feelings about and areas of internal conflict around HB481. With this understanding, we can potentially improve our ability to communicate more effectively about abortion and HB481 with the general public.