All of the female Democratic state senators walked out of the Georgia Senate on Wednesday to protest bills put forward by the Republican male majority.
The demonstration took place after Republicans passed two bills that opponents have said are part of the GOP's "war on women." The only female Republican senator did not take part in the protest.
State Senate Bill 438, passed by a vote of 33-18, prevents state health plans from paying for abortions. The measure makes no exception even in cases of rape and incest.
"As a state employee, we’re going to make this decision for you if you’re raped or the victim of incest," state Sen. Doug Stoner (D) argued in objection to the bill.
Democrats also objected to state Senate Bill 460, which would amend a 1999 law that required any "religious employer" to cover contraception. If the new measure become law, any group organized for "religious purposes" would be exempted from covering birth control.
That bill passed by a vote of 38-15.
Bill author Republican state Sen. Josh McKoon said it wasn't clear how his proposal would mesh with the Obama administration's mandate that all health insurance companies cover contraception because the Supreme Court had not weighed in on the constitutionality of the federal government's Affordable Care Act.
"If the federal government just kind of wholesale takes over health care, and it becomes a single market, and it’s not regulated state-by-state, then we will be facing a different situation," he explained. "As long as Georgia is regulating health insurance, we want to provide flexibility for religious employers, particularly when we’re asking the federal government to do the same."
Democratic state Sen. Nan Orrock told WXIA that Republicans never had a problem with contraception coverage in the state until the Obama administration tried to standardize benefits throughout the country.
"Here come the right-wing shock troops marching, marching," she said. "And women are on the bull's-eye target."
But McKoon denied that Republicans were waging a "war on women" at all.
"I would say that the war that's being waged is on religious minority in this country that has strong beliefs that are protected by the First Amendment," he asserted.
Watch this video from WXIA, broadcast March. 8, 2012.