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BILL POWER: McKillip, right, confers with Rep. Delvis Dutton, R-Glennville, left, after the passage of HB 954.
Associated Press/Photo by David Goldman
BILL POWER: McKillip, right, confers with Rep. Delvis Dutton, R-Glennville, left, after the passage of HB 954.

Fetal and political pain

Lifestyle | Georgia state Rep. Doug McKillip says risking a political career is worth it ‘to do things that really matter’

Issue: "Another dark day in America," Jan. 12, 2013

Three years ago, Georgia state Rep. Doug McKillip, a Democrat, vocally opposed the pro-life cause. Yet on March 29, he stood on the Georgia House floor as a Republican testifying in favor of a bill he sponsored—the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, or HB 954—and risking his political future. 

What had changed? One simple but crucial thing: In 2009 McKillip professed faith in Christ. A year later he switched parties. Later he stepped fully into the pro-life ring by introducing HB 954. He knew that fighting for a fetal pain bill could jeopardize his seat, but he decided the risk was worth it: “You have to be willing to get unelected to do things that really matter.”

He quickly faced the heat. Just before his March testimony, a group of pro-abortion senators wrapped in crime-scene tape marched out of the chamber. They chanted with other tape-clad representatives, “We will remember in November! We will remember in November!” Inside the House chamber, about 25 legislators on the floor stood and faced the back wall in protest. In the gallery, a group of college-aged women did the same.

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McKillip’s bill triggered fierce opposition from abortion advocates because it bans abortion after 20 weeks fetal age, determined by the fertilized egg’s implantation date. “Fetal pain” bills, as they are commonly termed, grow out of medical evidence showing that 20-week-old unborn children have sufficient neural development to sense pain. Eight other states—Alabama, Arizona, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Kansas, Nebraska, and Oklahoma—now have fetal pain laws.  

For nearly two months McKillip endured grueling committee meetings and confrontations with screaming opponents in hallways. By the morning of March 29, the last day of the Georgia legislative session, everyone thought the fetal pain bill had died. But McKillip grabbed his reference materials anyway and headed to the House chamber. 

Forty-five minutes later, a page tapped him on the shoulder and said, “The speaker needs you.” McKillip turned to a friend on his left. “Well, here we go,” he said: Time for last-minute wheeling and dealing. Tension spilled into the hallways outside the chamber. A pro-abortion lobbyist confronted Georgia Right to Life (GRTL) president Dan Becker, screaming at and eventually punching him. Becker refused to press charges. 

The debate among pro-life forces also intensified. Three Georgia state senators had introduced an amendment allowing late-term abortions for congenital and chromosomal fetal anomalies. The first draft of the amendment mentioned specific anomalies like Down syndrome, but McKillip worked with National Right to Life (NRL) to craft language that didn’t specify anomalies. The amendment caused GRTL to revoke its support of the bill, creating fear that the bill would fail without the state organization’s backing.

“Georgia was down to the 11th hour literally,” said NRL’s Mary Balch: “They chose to save those that they could,” 90 percent of the 1,100 to 1,200 late-term babies aborted in Georgia yearly. McKillip now had pro-life critics to go along with the massive number he had gained on the pro-abortion side.

The Senate passed the amended bill, and 30 minutes before the session adjourned, the Georgia House did the same. On May 1, Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal signed the bill, with Jan. 1, 2013, as the date more unborn children begin receiving protection. Supporters say the law will save the lives of three babies each day.

Doug McKillip lost his primary last year to a Republican who opposed the bill. He has no regrets: Next to becoming a father himself, “It’s the best thing I’ve done in my life.”

—Courtney Crandell is a WORLD intern

A dark cloud’s silver lining

Recessions are hard on health. During recessions people lose jobs, lose insurance, and become more anxious and depressed. Suicide increases. Surprisingly, though, recessions are good for life expectancy. That’s what Neal Emery argues in an article in The Atlantic: “Despite the harmful aspects for workers, overall death rates fall and people live longer during recessions.” 

Emery offers behavioral explanations. During good economic times, people drink more, smoke more, get less exercise, get fatter, and sleep less. One reason: They are busy working, and during recessions out-of-work people are less busy. They have less money to spend on booze, and more time to exercise and cook healthy food. Another explanation: When factories are closed during recessions, air quality improves—an important factor in infant mortality rates.

Emery says neither theory explains how recessions can be bad for individual health but good for the overall health of the country. For that answer he turns to demographics and a study by the National Bureau of Economic Research. He says, “Seventy percent of averted deaths come from those over 70.” The death rate among the elderly declines during recessions because the death rate for those in nursing homes declines. States with the largest percentage of elderly in nursing homes saw the greatest decrease in deaths among those 65 and older. 

Why? Emery’s theory: During recessions, chronically understaffed nursing homes are able to attract better quality workers. When the recession eases, better skilled nursing home employees find other, better-paying jobs, leaving the elderly residents once again in the care of less-qualified workers. In short, recessions harm the health of working-age people, but care for the elderly improves. —Susan Olasky

Courtney Crandell
Courtney Crandell

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