Advocates for reproductive rights and some Florida lawmakers gather at the Old Capitol building steps to rally against limitations on abortion access. Sept. 21, 2021. Credit: Danielle J. Brown
Fearful that the landmark Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 could change immeasurably, given the current landscape, women lawmakers and other advocates at the Florida Capitol grounds came out in force Tuesday to rally against anti-abortion legislation.
With the Florida Legislature launching legislative committee meetings this week to prepare for the upcoming 2022 legislative session, women who are now seniors as well as young women, said they are preparing for a fight for abortion rights.
“I thought we were done with this in ’73,” State Sen. Linda Stewart of Orlando said at a press conference Tuesday. “I can’t believe I am here today having to still rally for the right to control our own bodies.”
She added: “Any effort to undo our hard fought protections is a direct assault on all women’s access to health care and her ability to make those decisions on her own.”
But already, Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson has said that lawmakers are working on a bill similar to a Texas law that targets abortions at the point when doctors detect a “fetal heartbeat” at roughly six weeks’ gestational age, though that’s a highly contested point.
And Simpson recently removed Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book from a chair of a committee that would be expected to consider anti-abortion legislation in the 2022 legislative session, according to Florida Politics.
Book, of Broward County, was at the Capitol grounds Tuesday, saying, “What they’ve done in Texas is an abomination, and it is coming here to Florida. And it is an all-out assault on women’s rights.”
Also attending was Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat, elected Cabinet member and a gubernatorial candidate for the governor’s race in 2022.
She told the crowd that she left a Florida Cabinet meeting to attend a Planned Parenthood press conference.
“This is where the fight is,” Fried said.
“We will not let the white men of this building tell us what to do with our bodies,” she said. “It’s not just about the women in Texas — that fight is coming here in Florida. And we are going to tell them ‘no,'” Fried said.
State Rep. Michele Rayner, a Democrat who represents parts of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas and Sarasota counties, highlighted how the lack of access to abortions can impact Black women and other minorities.
“I center Black women in this, because our bodies have long been chained and commodified to the United States of America. There have been men, white men specifically, that want to tell us what we can and cannot do with our bodies,” Rayner said.
“When we talk about abortion, we’re talking about women’s bodies and people’s bodies, but we are also talking about justice issues. We’re also talking about race issues. We’re also talking about equity issues. Because guess what? Access to abortion is health care. Access to safe abortions is equity. Access to safe abortions is racial justice.”
State Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando acknowledged those who do not identify as women but still need access to reproductive health care.
“Trans men need abortions too. Gender non-conforming people need abortions too. And when you take away our right to end a pregnancy, you are absolutely taking away the rights of LGBTQ+ people…this is all intersectional and tied together.”
State Rep. Angie Nixon, representing part of Duval County, said, “Between implicit bias, inadequate health insurance, and no access to quality health care, pregnancy can be a death sentence for so many of us.”
Another press conference Tuesday centered around reproductive justice for incarcerated pregnant people.
Dignity Power, an advocacy group for incarcerated women and girls, came to the Capitol to further advocate for the dignity of incarcerated women.
In August, a woman named Erica Thompson gave birth in the Alachua County Jail, even after Florida approved a new law from the 2020 legislative session protecting pregnant inmates from such an experience.
The “Tammy Jackson Act” was named after a different pregnant inmate was denied medical attention while in labor in an isolation cell in Broward County. After seven hours of labor, she delivered her baby, by herself, in April 2019.
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