On Tuesday, May 14, 2024, WABE reported that abortion has taken center stage in the hotly contested race for the Georgia Supreme Court between former Democratic Congressman John Barrow and incumbent Justice Andrew Pinson. The race has been thrust into the national spotlight due to Barrow’s outspoken stance on protecting reproductive rights in the wake of the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade last year.

Barrow has made defending abortion access a core part of his campaign. However, his vocal statements on the issue have led him to file a federal lawsuit alleging that judicial codes restricting campaign discussion of issues violate his free speech rights. According to Barrow, the First Amendment allows judicial hopefuls to express their personal views. Critics counter that this open politicization of the judiciary risks eroding trust in impartial courts.

The race marks a rare instance of an incumbent Georgia Supreme Court justice facing a challenger. Such contests are historically apolitical, with justiceships decided via periodic nonpartisan elections. However, Barrow’s abortion-focused campaign has injected partisan division not traditionally seen in judicial races.

Barrow previously served as a Democratic congressman for over a decade. He has been trying to join the state Supreme Court for years through both elections and gubernatorial appointments, making this his first time on the ballot. Pinson, the incumbent, was appointed by Republican Governor Brian Kemp in 2022 after years as a judge and Georgia’s solicitor general.

While Pinson has not publicly stated his abortion stance, Barrow characterizes him as unwilling to safeguard women’s rights based on Pinson’s involvement in supporting anti-abortion litigation as solicitor general. Reproductive healthcare groups like Planned Parenthood see electing Barrow as key to keeping abortion legally protected in Georgia courts. However, pro-life advocates warn his rhetoric risks politicizing an impartial judicial system.

Complicating matters, a judicial ethics complaint was filed against Barrow for allegedly violating codes through campaign statements, ads, and Facebook posts emphasizing his abortion rights support. He maintains his views fall under permitted legal discussions, not banned partisan politics. As early voting nears its May 17 end ahead of the May 21 election date, the divisive case continues energizing activists on both sides of this pivotal topic.

Only time will tell if Barrow’s unconventional, cause-based strategy succeeds in upsetting the incumbent or furthers a larger national debate over the proper role of social issues in judicial elections during this transformative post-Roe era. For Georgia voters, the contest presents a choice between transparency and impartiality regarding one of the most contentious issues facing the state supreme court.



Source: WABE