Lawmakers joined abortion-rights supporters at the Old Capitol on Jan. 12, 2022. Credit: Imani Thomas
State lawmakers and women’s right activists took a stand on the Old Capitol steps to let Republican legislators know that they are ready to fight efforts to ban abortion at 15 weeks.
During a rally on Wednesday, they spoke out against HB 5, a bill that would prohibit a physician from terminating a pregnancy if the gestational age of the fetus is more than 15 weeks.
HB 5 was filed on the first day of the 2022 legislative session by state Rep. Erin Grall, a Republican representing Indian River and part of St. Lucie counties.
Rep. Michele Rayner said the people of Florida are prepared to fight to protect abortion rights.
“I have this to say to the governor and the sponsors of these bills: ‘You can bring it on, because you can mess around and find out what’s going to happen,’” said Rayner, a Democrat representing parts of Hillsborough, Manatee, Pinellas, and Sarasota counties.
“If you don’t listen to the people, the people will make sure you don’t have a seat in power,” she said. “What we’re planning to do is show up and show out.”
The measure is unconstitutional under existing U.S. Supreme Court precedents. However, the court’s new conservative majority appears primed to overrule those protections in a case involving Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban.
House member Anna Eskamani of Orlando argued abortion is a women’s health issue.
“There’s no such thing as a reasonable abortion ban,” she said.
Should the bill pass, the closest state to get an abortion would be North Carolina, Eskamani said. “And when you get to North Carolina, you have to go through their 72-hour wait period. So, you can imagine the cost associated with that.”
HB 5 and its Senate companion (SB 146) by Sen. Kelli Stargel lack language allowing private-citizen lawsuits to enforce abortion restrictions, as allowed under a recent Texas law. Stargel represents parts of Lake and Polk counties.
Proposed legislation emulating the Texas law has been filed in the Florida House but has gone nowhere.
Sen. Shevrin Jones, a Democrat representing parts of Broward and Miami-Dade counties, said that lawmakers should focus on addressing more important issues, such as rising COVID caseloads.
“I want to ask my Republican colleagues: ‘Aren’t ya’ll tired?’ I’ve been here for 11 years, and we’ve seen this rodeo time and time again,” Jones said.
Regarding Gov. Ron DeSantis calling Florida the “freest state” during his State of the State address, Jones’ response was: “If Florida is truly a free state, free our women and leave them the hell alone.”
Reporter Issac Morgan contributed to this report.
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