Georgia Right to Life
||This article may be confusing or unclear to readers. (July 2011)|
|Type||IRS exemption status: 501(c)(4)|
|Founder(s)||Jay and Cheryl Bowman|
Daniel Becker, PresidentNancy Stith, Executive Director
|Focus(es)||Education, Legislation, Political Action|
Georgia Right to Life (GRTL) is a pro-life advocacy organization that is non-profit, non-partisan, and non-sectarian. It was incorporated in 1971 by Jay and Cheryl Bowman. In 1973, it became the state affiliate of the Washington, D.C. based National Right to Life Committee in response to the Supreme decision of Roe v Wade which legalized abortion. GRTL serves as Georgia’s largest pro-life organization with grassroots chapters across 30 counties in Georgia and more than 240,000 identified pro-life households. Georgia Right to Life is organized for activities in the areas of education, legislation, and political action. The organization uses the aforementioned methods to oppose legalized abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, and human cloning and artificially produced genetic transformation.
Georgia Right to Life, which was originally titled the Georgia Right to Life Committee, was established in 1970. The organization changed its name to Georgia Right to Life in the mid-1980s. Its first major action was a letter-writing campaign in the same year. The campaign encouraged Georgians to vote for pro-life candidates. By 1971, the Georgia Right to Life Committee was incorporated and became a member of the National Right to Life Coalition. An office was set up in the garage of the Bowman's home and volunteers helped mail packets of information and a newsletter to thousands of Georgians. Several months later, Georgia Right to Life began establishing local chapters in other parts of the state.
In 1973, Georgia Right to Life launched a pro-life campaign in reaction to the Supreme Court case Roe v Wade which was decided on January 22, 1973. The Bowmans appeared on television and radio programs as speakers on abortion and other pro-life issues. Jay Bowman appeared in the "hot seat" on the WAGA show "Confrontation" and Cheryl Bowman appeared on WSB-TV's "Today in Georgia." The group gained national recognition when an article about Georgia Right to Life was printed in a 1975 issue of "Newsweek". The organization eventually relocated its office to Decatur, Georgia.
The Bowmans left Georgia Right to Life in the late 1970s. Mary Boyert joined GRTL's executive committee in 1978. She served as the Education Director from 1979-1980. She was elected president of the organization in 1980. She served for three consecutive terms (1980–1986). After her third and final term, Ms. Boyert was appointed to the Executive Director position in late 1986. She held that post until being appointed the Archdiocesan Pro-Life Director in 2000. Ms. Boyert established the Georgia Right to Life Executive Committee, the Georgia Right to Life Educational Trust Fund, and the Georgia Right to Life Political Action Committee. Under Ms. Boyert's presidency, local chapters were founded and the organization's bimonthly newsletter. By the 1990s, 225,000 pro-life households identified with the organization.
In 2000, president-elect Caryl Swift and the State Board of Directors voted to reverse the organization's position on politicians; views on abortion in regard to rape and incest. Previously to 1999, Georgia Right to Life did not disqualify elected public officials from receiving an endorsement from the organization if they held an exception for abortion in favor of rape and incest victims. Caryl Swift and the Executive Committee reversed this position. All politicians who hold an abortion exception for rape and incest can no longer qualify for and endorsement from the GRTL Political Action Committee.
In 2000, Caryl Swift was elected to the presidency of Georgia Right to Life. She held the position from 2000-2007. Under Ms. Swift, GRTL began lobbying for Georgia state representatives and proposed legislation. In the last few years, GRTL has publicly endorsed Casey Cagle, Ralph Reed, Paul Broun, and Mac Collins for higher political office. Current United States Senators Johnny Isakson (R-GA) and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) did not receive an endorsement from Georgia Right to Life in the 2004 midterm elections.
The REACH Benefit Dinner was first established in 2001 by the Swift administration. REACH, which is an acronym for Reaching Hearts, Changing Minds, is an annual fundraiser for Georgia Right to Life's Educational Trust Fund.
Under Ms. Swift's presidency, Georgia Right to Life was able to successfully lobby the General Assembly on HB 197 in 2006. The bill created a 24 hour waiting period for all women seeking an abortion, tightened parental notification regulations, mandated that all women seeking abortion be offered the chance to view an ultrasound, and mandated all women seeking abortion be informed about fetal pain.
By unanimous vote by the State Board, GRTL, Inc. became a faith-based organization in 2007. Georgia Right to Life is a philanthropic Judeo-Christian organization which is legally recognized as a not-for-profit.
Georgia Right to Life has had a democratically elected president since its creation in 1970. These presidents include: Jay Bowman, 1970–1979, Kel MacDonald, 1979–1980, Mary Boyert, 1980–1986, John and Linda Fuchko, 1986–1988, Erik Petersen, 1988–1989, Tom Clark, 1990–1991, Gen Wilson, 1991–2000, Caryl Swift, 2000–2007, and Dan Becker, 2007–Present. All presidents are limited to three consecutive terms. Any president may serve in any position within the organization for as long as the current president sees fit after their presidency.
Today, Georgia Right to Life's activities include: the printing of a bi-monthly newsletter with a stated circulation of around 60,000, the funding a multi-media pro-life and "personhood" campaign, the drafting and promoting of legislation to restrict abortion, and the hosting of pro-life events like the Together for Life rally. Georgia Right to Life is also well known for its pro-life organization intended for instilling, mentoring, and fostering a respect for human life in young girls, Miss Right to Life of Georgia Scholarship & Benefit Pageant.
There are currently 30 adult-organized, grass roots chapters and one youth-focused and youth-organized chapter (Mission: Life, see Mission: Life section) under the Georgia Right to Life banner. Daniel Becker succeeded Caryl Swift as president of Georgia Right to Life in 2007. Under Becker's leadership, the organization has lobbied for restrictions on abortion, including the Human Life Amendment which would have defined personhood as beginning at fertilization, to be added to the Georgia Constitution.[dead link]
Georgia Right to Life has been written about in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, the Christian Newswire, the Christian Index, and the Times Free Press as well as highlighted by NPR and other sources of media.
Each year, Georgia Right to Life hosts the Together for Life rally and memorial service at the Georgia state capitol. Rep. Martin Scott (R-District 2) and Dr. Alveda King, the niece of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke at the event in 2009.
In most recent news, Georgia Right to Life has received coverage for its endorsement of Governor Mike Huckabee in the 2008 presidential election and its support for The Ethical Treatment of Human Embryos Act, the Option of Adoption Act (placing embryos in the adoption process), and HR 334/SR 156 "Opposing FOCA Resolution."
Georgia Right to Life has also received media coverage for its strong stand in favor of the Human Life Amendment. The organization has lobbied Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson for a speedy vote on the amendment To date, the Human Life Amendment has not come to a vote in the Georgia General Assembly. Other GRTL-sponsored legislation which has not received a hearing in the Georgia House include SB 223 "The Woman's Reproductive Health Oversight Committee," HR 1 "Ban on Abortion," and HR 5 "Paramount Right to Life Amendment." 
The organization's most recent projects include the "Abortion Holocaust Memorial Wall" and the "Choose Life" license plates campaign. The virtual wall is modeled after the Vietnam Memorial but it recognizes every abortion performed in the United States since 1973. In 2009, GRTL joined the non-profit organization Choose Life of Georgia in its license plate campaign. License plates which read "Choose Life" are offered to be purchased by any Georgia citizen. Proceeds from the purchases are donated to agencies that promote adoption (pro-life pregnancy centers).
In 2009, Georgia Right to Life released its Candidate Affirmation statement. Any political candidate who seeks an endorsement from the organization must sign the statement. The document reads:
"Whereas, the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution states, 'nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty or property, without due process of law, nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the law,' Georgia Right to Life PAC affirms the principle that the right to life is the bedrock upon which all other Constitutional rights are derived.
In addition, we believe, in the face of compelling biological evidence, that a continuum of human life and personhood begins at the moment of fertilization and ends at natural death, the ethical treatment of human embryos must include their 'best interests,'
Therefore, as a candidate for public office, I affirm my support for a Human Life Amendment to the Georgia Constitution and other actions that would support these principals. This would assure that regardless of race, age, degree of disability, manner of conception or circumstances surrounding a terminal illness, that the civil rights of the pre-born at an embryonic or fetal level, the elderly and those with mental or physical infirmities are protected by law and are violated when we allow destructive embryonic stem cell research, therapeutic or reproductive cloning, animal human hybrids, abortion (except to save the life of the mother), infanticide, euthanasia or assisted suicide." 
Georgia state senator Eric Johnson, Ray McBerry, Georgia state Commissioner John Oxendine, Georgia state representative Austin Scott, and Jeff Chapman, five of the Republican candidates for Governor, have signed GRTL's declaration.
Starting in 2010, Georgia Right to Life will promote a pro-life outreach campaign geared toward the African-American community.