Last week's heated debate over abortion legislation on the floor of the Georgia House of Representatives wasn't the first time a prominent East Cobb lawmaker has been drawn into the fray.
State Rep. Sharon Cooper ultimately did not vote on HB 954, which the House passed easily and that would reduce the limit on when a woman could seek an elective abortion from 26 to 20 weeks of pregnancy.
But it was medical reporting language contained in the bill that Cooper, the Republican chairwoman of the House Health and Human Services Committee, objected to in blunt terms.
Cooper, who has long considered herself strongly pro-life, calls HB 954 "cruel and inhumane punishment." How she described Georgia Right to Life's opposition to her position was even more direct.
Cooper, a nurse by training, was especially upset that the bill would require any doctor performing an abortion to file paperwork with the state that she feared could make him or her a target of pro-life groups. As Creative Loafing excerpted her floor remarks:
"I don’t want regular OB/GYNs and specialists who are just trying to do the best job they can having their names made available to the public so the crazies can do what they’ve done to a doctor in one of the major hospitals in this city. . .Two years ago, he came down and testified in Senate and was so effective that they didn’t want him to come down again, so his life and his business are threatened. That is not right. We ought to be able to let anybody come testify so we get both sides of the issue.
"I’m pro-life and I don’t see how anybody makes a living just doing abortions. But right now they’re legal in the U.S., and as long as they’re legally doing it, I don’t want [abortion doctors] killed."
She gave multiple interviews outraged by what she called Georgia RTL's "threat" against her political career, and vowed her vote couldn't be bought.
But Cooper has been under pressure before from Georgia RTL, which targeted her in 2010 after staunch anti-abortion legislation the group favored was stalled by House Republican leadership, including Cooper and Speaker David Ralston.
In an Insider Advantage story from July 2010 republished on Cooper's own website, veteran state political journalist Dick Pettys wrote that "Georgia Right to Life is even more fervent than the national Right to Life organization in its opposition to abortion."
The story quotes Georgia RTL political advocacy director Melanie Crozier as saying that “Sharon Cooper has a long history of opposing common sense, pro-life legislation in her committee.”
Cooper, first elected in 1996 to represent District 41, which covers most of East Cobb, has had rare Republican opposition. After the Georgia RTL statement, she won the 2010 GOP primary with 61 percent of the vote.
It's an intriguing turn of political fate for Cooper, a stalwart East Cobb Republican who's been an active campaigner in former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich's presidential campaign and is the co-author of a book about Tea Party activism.
Yet a state Tea Party website has labeled her "pro abortion."
Cooper's quandary even got her noticed on a national feminist website in an item just above the flap over Rush Limbaugh's controversial birth control-related "slut" comments and just below an item about New York Knicks basketball sensation Jeremy Lin.
And in another ironic twist for Cooper, Georgia RTL has has dropped its endorsment of former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney in today's presidential primary in favor of more outspoken abortion foes, ex-Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum and Gingrich.