Could FL’s special legislative session in late May include a broader abortion ban?

Abortion rights advocates plan protests in cities Tuesday across Florida, following U.S. Supreme Court leak

By: - May 3, 2022 2:11 pm

Reproductive rights advocates gather in front of Florida’s old Capitol building to protest an abortion bill. Oct. 2, 2021. Credit: Danielle J. Brown

Florida House Democrats said they would “not be surprised” to see a broader abortion ban come up in an upcoming May special session, following a leaked draft of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling showing the high court could overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

“I think they won’t be able to help themselves, honestly,” said Rep. Kelly Skidmore of Palm Beach County during a Tuesday virtual press conference discussing the potential impacts of the draft ruling.

The leaked majority opinion draft, first reported by POLITICO, has already sparked both pro- and anti-abortion demonstrations at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., according to twitter videos captured on the scene.

Meanwhile, in Florida, Planned Parenthood organizations are scheduling rallies across the state at 5 p.m. Tuesday to support Roe v Wade abortion protections that go back to almost a half a century, according to a new release.

Here is a list of where those rallies will take place Tuesday evening: Tallahassee, Gainesville, Orlando, Broward, St. Petersburg/Tampa area, Sarasota, Lakeland, Fort Myers, Naples and potentially other communities.

During a virtual press conference with House Democrats, the Phoenix asked the Dems about the likelihood of seeing anti-abortion legislation show up in the May special session on property insurance.

“They (the Florida Republican majority) can do whatever they want. They have the numbers in the legislature,” Rep. Robin Bartleman said. She represents part of Broward County.

Monday evening, POLITICO leaked and reported the draft opinion on the current Mississippi 15-week abortion ban being challenged in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Gov. Ron DeSantis recently signed a similar bill into law called HB 5, which prohibits most abortions after the 15-week mark.

An extreme anti-abortion group called Florida Voice for the Unborn is urging DeSantis to expand the  upcoming special session to include a broader abortion ban.

Andrew Shirvell, the executive director for the group, said that he would want the legislation to  “prohibit all abortions within Florida, except in very rare circumstances when a mother’s life is in danger,” in a letter to the governor Tuesday.

“The time for action is NOW! Gov. DeSantis must act to save Florida’s unborn children,” Shirvell said in a written statement. “How DeSantis responds at this historic moment in time will forever cement his legacy.”

While the topics of property insurance and abortion access are very different, a recent special session in April, on congressional maps, expanded last minute to eliminate tax and liability advantages for the Walt Disney Co.

Bartleman suggested that something similar could happen with the property insurance special session, which is slated to run from May 23 to May 27.

“I showed up to Tallahassee on Monday morning (in late April) to deal with unconstitutional congressional maps and I received a text message that I was going to be dealing with Disney, so I would not be surprised if he chooses to do this,” Bartleman said.

Skidmore explained that Florida does not currently have a “trigger law” on the books regarding an abortion ban, as other states have. These are laws already set in place to heavily restrict abortion access that have not yet been enforced due to Roe v. Wade, but would go into effect should the landmark court case be overturned.

“Florida does not have a trigger law right now… It would not surprise me if it showed up in the next special session, at all,” Skidmore said.

Christina Pushaw, DeSantis’ press secretary, said in an email to the Phoenix: “We do not have a statement at this time; we await the final ruling,” meaning the official U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Mississippi ban that could come out around the summertime.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orange County Democrat, highlighted the potential overturning of other U.S. Supreme Court cases down the line, including Obergefell v. Hodges, which granted marriage equality to LGBTQ+ couples.

“What the SCOTUS is basically saying in this draft opinion is that there are no legal federal firewalls. Everything goes back to the states,” Eskamani said during the virtual press conference.

“And so if your state cares about women’s rights, cares about gender equality — and by the way it’s not just about abortion. In the draft opinion, we saw Justice Alito reference two specific Supreme Court cases that impact LGBTQ+ equality and marriage equality. So first it will be abortion rights, but every other right that we have fought hard for is at risk right now.”

Skidmore echoed Eskamani:

“Today it’s this. Tomorrow it’s transgender surgery. Tomorrow it’s marriage equality. Tomorrow it’s somebody else that they’re going to go after.”

Christie Arnold, associate for Social Concerns and Respect Life, Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops said in statement:

“That someone would violate ethical commitments of the staff of the Supreme Court of the United States in such an unprecedented manner is shocking and terribly disappointing. As we await a final ruling in… we are hopeful that Florida will be able to further protect women and children from abortion. As we affirm the value of every human life, we welcome the possibility of saving countless unborn children as well as sparing women and families the pain of abortion.”

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.