Planned Parenthood endorsed Stacey Abrams in the race for governor Monday, giving the former House Democratic leader a powerful new ally while dashing her rival’s hopes that the abortion rights group would stay neutral in the contest.
Staci Fox, the president of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said Abrams was an “unwavering champion for reproductive health and rights” and said the organization backed her over former state Rep. Stacey Evans after “the most thorough” process in its history.
The endorsement, made through the nonprofit’s political action fund, is coveted by Democrats who hope to mobilize women ahead of the May 22 primary. The group has about 113,000 members in Georgia, and many of them will be urged to back Abrams in the runup to the vote.
Abrams said the announcement means the “issue of reproductive choice and reproductive health will not be an offshoot conversation” in the governor’s race.
“It will not be a quiet whisper,” said Abrams. “It will be a proud and central facet of this campaign.”
It could also energize Republicans, who have their own heated nomination contest. State Sen. Michael Williams, one of five top GOP contenders, called the group “barbaric” minutes after the endorsement was announced.
Planned Parenthood is deeply polarizing for many conservatives, and during the 2016 presidential campaign anti-abortion groups tried to damage the organization with video of an official discussing the price of providing fetal parts. The group and its backers called the video part of an assault on a woman’s right to choose.
The move dealt a blow to Evans, whose supporters urged the group to back her campaign or stay out of the race altogether.
They pointed to her service on the board of NARAL Pro-Choice Georgia board and pro bono legal work for young women who seek abortions. And they cite her opposition to a 20-week abortion ban during the 2012 legislative session.
She was nine months pregnant during that vote, which was scheduled on the day she was to be induced into labor. She spoke against the bill in a videotaped statement played for House lawmakers hours before she gave birth.
Fox, the group’s president, declined to comment on the group’s process when asked whether there was a vote or a decision that distinguished Abrams over Evans. But she said board members “took this very seriously” before they voted.
“It was a really important time for us to take a stand,” said Fox. “It’s a significant moment in history, and we felt like Stacey Abrams was the candidate who best reflected our work and the patients that we serve across the state of Georgia.”