Georgia Democratic Senate candidate Teresa Tomlinson said in 2010 she believed in life at conception, but she told MSNBC Saturday it was "biologically impossible" for one person to live within another while criticizing the newly signed Georgia abortion law.
Campaign spokeswoman Caitlin Highland told the Washington Free Beacon that Tomlinson "disputes the suggestion that personhood begins at conception" when asked if she had changed her mind about her earlier position.
"Because Mayor Tomlinson believes in biology, she understands that cellular life begins at conception," Highland said in an email. "But cellular life is not personhood; she vehemently disputes the suggestion that personhood begins at conception, or anytime up to birth."
Tomlinson, an attorney who served two terms as mayor of Columbus, Georgia, announced her bid to seek the Democratic nomination shortly after Stacey Abrams declined to enter the race.
She has been harshly critical of the pro-life bill signed by Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp (R.), which outlaws abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, often around the six-week mark of a pregnancy. It excludes victims of rape or incest. Pro-choice groups have vowed to go to court and fight the law, which will go into effect in 2020.
Tomlinson told MSNBC's Joy Reid on Saturday that the goal of the legislation was to "overturn" Roe vs. Wade.
"Absolutely, the goal is to overturn Roe," she said. "In fact, that's in the preamble of the bill. It literally says that the object is to take the Planned Parenthood vs. Casey viability definition and make it encompass the entire protections of Roe vs. Wade, so therefore it would be meaningless—that viability would be, and personhood would begin at the point of conception, at which point a pregnant woman would become a vessel of the state, because the state would then take a compelling interest in her womb, and there would be competing personhoods.
"Of course, as you point out, that is theologically, legally, and biologically impossible to have one person encased within the flesh of another—one person living off the lifeblood of another. But they have considered it to be such personhood that they have declared it to have taxing status, so that this cellular life has taxing status, and also has to be counted in the Census. So it is an extreme effort to overturn Roe vs. Wade."
While running for mayor of Columbus in 2010, Tomlinson was criticized at a forum by a fellow candidate for making donations to Emily's List, which seeks to elect pro-choice women to political office. The Ledger-Enquirer reported on the meeting and that Tomlinson told the newspaper afterward she believed life began at conception, but she donated to Emily's List because it supported female candidates:
In her presentation, Tomlinson didn’t address Olson’s remarks about her but said she’s prepared to represent the entire population of the city.
"I have great faith in the judgment of God and faith in you as ministers," she said to the group.
She mentioned her experience as an attorney and former leader of MidTown Inc. as passions that can lead to economic development and crime reduction. She said someone remarked recently to her that it doesn’t seem to matter who’s mayor.
"It always matters who your chief executive is," Tomlinson said. "It affects your life every single day."
After the meeting, Tomlinson told the Ledger-Enquirer she believes life begins at conception, and that she has given money to Emily’s List because it helps support female candidates. She’s a member of St. Luke United Methodist Church.
If she wins the nomination, she will face Sen. David Perdue (R., Ga.), who is seeking a second term. A Donald Trump ally, he has vowed to serve only two terms in office if re-elected.
Perdue's office declined to comment on Tomlinson's remarks, but Perdue told Fox & Friends on Monday that Kemp and the Republican legislature had done what Georgia voters elected them to do. He dismissed the calls from some Hollywood figures and companies for a boycott of Georgia, which offers tax incentives to lure the entertainment business to the state.
"Georgia has moved in this area, this governor did exactly what the state legislature voted to do, what the voters asked them to do, and it’s the law of the land today," he said. "Life is precious. I think this vote shows that. This is not a radical right or liberal left issue here in Georgia. It’s a moral issue, and I think the people of Georgia have spoken."