(Photo Courtesy/Joshua L. Jones Athens Banner-Herald via AP)

Georgia House District 117 Race Puts Reproductive Justice on the Ballot

Georgia, a historically reliable red state, has the potential to swing blue during this election cycle, according to reporting from NPR. The possibility of the state’s swing is also mirrored in several of the localized State House and Senate races.  

Among these is the Georgia House District 117 race between incumbent Republican Rep. Houston Gaines and Democratic candidate Mokah Johnson. According to a voting forecast map by CN Alysis, the HD117 race could be one of the closest in the state. Currently, the prediction is tilting Democrat, in Johnson’s favor. 

 Why It’s Newsworthy: Johnson spoke with Grady Newsource ahead of the election about her motivations for running, and the changes she hopes to usher in if elected to represent GA House District 117.  



“I believe that based on the work that I’ve been able to do locally, I would like to try to do those same things on a state level. I wanted to speak up. I wanted to fight for the people. And that’s why I’m running for office,” said Johnson. 

Like progressive candidates running across the state, Johnson and her campaign have mobilized in response to what they see as civil rights failures. A key part of Johnson’s platform includes reproductive justice. If elected, the candidate said she will protect a woman’s right to choose and work to expand Medicaid to address the state’s high maternal mortality rate. 

On her website, Johnson writes, “It is unacceptable that Georgia has one of the highest rates of maternal mortality in the country and that half of our counties have no OB-GYNs. I will fight to expand access to prenatal and maternal health resources, especially in rural counties.” 

On the same issue of reproductive justice, her opponent, Rep. Houston Gaines has no specific plans outlined within his platform. The incumbent’s website does not mention reproductive justice, maternal mortality or Medicaid expansion.

“Houston will stand in strong opposition to the push for a government-run single-payer health care system, which would devastate small businesses’ bottom lines and dramatically raise our taxes. Instead, Houston will pursue market-based solutions to increase choice for our families and make quality, patient-centered care more affordable,” Gaines’ website states. 

Gaines’ platform online does not go into further detail about what those market-based solutions would be, or how he plans to make care more accessible or affordable. Gaines, who voted ‘yes’ on Georgia HB 481, which would outlaw most abortions after six weeks, also wants to bolster work requirement programs for government healthcare assistance through Medicaid in order to scale back entitlement abuse, according to his website. 

In HD117, which is 51% female and has a median age of 33.6, according to U.S. Census data, issues of reproductive justice are on the ballot, and voters are taking note. The AJC reported that by the end of early voting in Georgia, nearly 3.9 million residents had voted either in-person or by absentee ballot, accounting for 51% of all registered voters in the state. 

Now, it’s Election Day 2020, and most Georgians have already cast their votes. Soon, we will know the future of not only House District 117 and its residents, but also the future of the state and the country. 

Caitlin Phillips is a senior majoring in journalism at the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.



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