A new ad in the Georgia 6th Congressional District runoff campaign is tackling thorny issues around women's health care. In it, Democratic candidate John Ossoff attacks Republican Karen Handel on her controversial time as the head of a prominent breast cancer nonprofit.
Ossoff's ad features an OBGYN in Cobb County. To the tune of somber piano music, Dr. Mindy Fine summarizes events from 2012 when Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced it would end its funding of Planned Parenthood.
"I don't usually get involved in politics, but as a doctor and a breast cancer survivor myself, what Karen Handel did is unforgivable," Fine said in the ad.
Handel was a senior vice president at Susan G. Komen, and after public outcry over the defunding, she resigned early 2012.
"What's unforgivable is his misleading of the women of the 6th district," said Handel, reacting to the ad.
Handel believes abortion should be illegal, except in cases of rape, incest or to save a mother's life. Still, she maintains the Susan G. Komen decision wasn't about that. She says it was financial, based on the fact that Planned Parenthood itself does not directly provide mammograms.
"I have been fighting for women and women's health issues for virtually my entire career,” said Handel.
This ad marks one of the first moments those issues have entered the race.
Emory University political scientist Andra Gillespie said it’s not easy to figure out how 6th district voters specifically have been motivated by women’s health in the past. “Usually our data isn’t so granular,” she said.
She said Ossoff's ad is meant to energize Democratic voters and, by focusing on breast cancer, appeal to others on a non-controversial part of women's health.
However, Gillespie said, "It's a risk that the Ossoff campaign took by invoking Planned Parenthood."
Gillespie said a highlight of Handel's anti-abortion stance, along with her turbulent times at Susan G. Komen, can play as assets for socially conservative voters in the historically Republican 6th district. Although Planned Parenthood provides many health services for women besides abortions, the organization remains a potent political symbol for reproductive rights.
Gillespie said the topic of abortion rights does test very well in Democratic voter polls.
"Ossoff's goal is to try to find every Democrat in every nook and cranny in that district and get them out to vote," she said. What the ad says to voters more skeptical of the legal right to abortion, Gillespie added, is something Ossoff has less control over.