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Cancer notification becomes first bill approved for Newton lawmaker
Sharon Henderson1
During a rally for her reelection Saturday on the Covington Square, State Rep. Sharon Henderson, right, describes legislation she sponsored to require women to be notified about insurance coverage of a mammogram. The bill gained state House approval this year and awaits Senate action. - photo by Tom Spigolon

COVINGTON, Ga. — The idea came to State Rep. Sharon Henderson as she awaited treatment at Cancer Treatment Centers of America.

Henderson said she had gone to the medical clinic for a checkup that later showed physicians had caught her suspected breast cancer early enough to stop it.

Not so with another patient there who was in a wheelchair, she said.

The 43-year-old woman, named Shelly, told Henderson she wished she was in the same condition as Henderson. 

She said she had not known about the American Cancer Society’s recommendation that women receive annual cancer screenings after a certain age, Henderson said.

“She did not know she was supposed to start at age 40 to get a mammogram,” Henderson said.

“Three years had passed and, in one year, her cancer had spread to five different organs and she was only 43 years old,” she said.

The interaction led Henderson — a Covington Democrat in her first term representing House District 113 — to sponsor legislation that became her first bill to gain full Georgia House of Representatives approval in the Republican-dominated governing body since she was elected in 2020.

Henderson said House Bill 937 was based on her experience “being there in the treatment center and hearing other women’s stories.”

“Shelly’s story is the one that took it to another level,” Henderson said. “She’s my daughter’s age and she’s a beautiful young lady but her life is such that she’s in a wheelchair and she didn’t know.”

The bill requires insurers to remind women statewide at age 40 and annually thereafter about their insurance coverage for mammograms and pap smears used to detect the presence of cancer.

The full Georgia House of Representatives approved the bill 170-1 on March 15 and the Senate Health and Human Services Committee has voted to recommend the full Senate approve it.

Henderson said the bill was originally only going to apply to those Georgians on Medicaid, but it was changed to apply to private insurers as well.

The House approval was all the more significant in that she was able to gain passage of legislation sponsored by a freshman member of the minority political party in the Republican-led House.

Henderson said other lawmakers had praised her for gaining passage of legislation she sponsored. One legislator told her about being in the General Assembly for 10 years and not gaining approval of sponsored legislation, she said.

“Cancer touches everybody’s lives whether it’s [a] friend, family, and everybody can relate to it,” Henderson said. “Republican or Democrat, it doesn’t matter.”

It also follows the full General Assembly’s approval of another first-term Newton County legislator’s bill in 2021.

District 110 State Rep. Clint Crowe, R-Jackson, sponsored a bill that requires the GBI to maintain a position that provides information about a sex offender’s criminal history to the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board in order to determine the risk an offender may commit a crime again. 

The bill — which the governor signed into law in 2021 — also allows the Sexual Offender Registration Review Board to employ its own investigators.