Protestors gather at the Historic Florida Capitol building following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that overturned abortion protections under Roe v. Wade June 24, 2022. Credit: Danielle J. Brown
Florida House and Senate Democratic leadership claim that Florida Republicans are keeping quiet on future plans to restrict abortion access even more than the state’s 15-week ban, according to a Zoom press conference Friday.
Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book and incoming House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell sounded the alarm just days before Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis and Democrat Charlie Crist debate on Monday, with controversial abortion issues likely to be on the table.
“This fight is not new. GOP extremists have been chipping away at a woman’s right to choose in Florida since the passage of Roe vs. Wade, with things like the 24-hour waiting period … and now a 15-week ban with no exceptions for survivors of rape, incest and human trafficking,” Book said during the press conference. She represents part of Broward County.
“We know this is only the beginning,” Book added. “We know that Ron DeSantis and radical Republicans in the Florida legislature are now planning for a total abortion ban — no 15-week window. It’s happened in other states. And if you don’t think Republicans in Florida are working to take away a woman’s rights fully — right here in our own state, continuing on the dangerous and disgusting path to strip women of bodily autonomy regardless of their circumstances — you’d be mistaken.”
Driskell highlighted the role of the upcoming election in the future of abortion access in Florida.
“We have 18 days until this election, on November 8th — 18 days to stand up at the ballot box and make our voices heard,” she said. Driskell represents part of Hillsborough County.
During press questions, Book and Driskell noted DeSantis’ vague stance when it comes to what sort of abortion or reproductive health care restrictions he would support.
The Monday debate between DeSantis and Crist would be a great time to press the governor on his stance on further abortion restrictions, Driskell said, and “it’s cowardly” for DeSantis not to state his stance before the gubernatorial election.
“The people of Florida have a right to know,” Driskell said. “And frankly, I think if Governor DeSantis decides to hold a special session to further reduce abortion rights, or even if he just reduces it during regular session during 2023, it’s a cowardly move.”
Thursday, DeSantis said he plans to call a special session on property insurance to assist victims of Hurricane Ian. But special sessions have included additional priorities.
“So, what he’s doing is being a bit subversive here, right? He’s not, you know, coming out and saying to the public what he thinks on that issue,” Driskell elaborated in response to questions from the Phoenix. “Because he wants to be able to skate by this election in November, win his reelection and then use that as a platform and a springboard to run for president in 2024 — which is the worst kept secret in politics. For governor DeSantis, Florida is just a stepping stone.”
Sen. Book added on to Driskell’s comment:
“When has this governor ever shied away from sharing where he stands on an issue?” Book asked. “I think the fact that he’s extremely silent on this issue tells us a lot.”
In the Florida Legislature, it’s not unsual to keep certain issues under wrap until it is politically convenient.
On the very first day of the 2022 regular session, State Rep. Erin Grall filed HB 5, which became Florida’s 15-week abortion ban law. (An earlier bill from another sponsor had pushed unsuccessfully for a more restrictive Texas-style ban.)
Before the bill was filed, there were rumors that the GOP planned on pushing a 15-week ban.
The timing was suspicious for current House Minority Leader Evan Jenne, who said at the time: “I am a little surprised that it took them so long to get it (HB 5) ready, but perhaps it was just to make a media splash on opening day.”
Meanwhile, a group that wants to ban all abortions in Florida is calling on Gov. Ron DeSantis to add a discussion on further restrictions on abortions to the just announced special legislative session in December.
Florida Voice for the Unborn founder and executive director Andrew Shirvell penned a letter to Gov. DeSantis on Friday, writing that “our patience with the unacceptable status quo is coming to an end. The time for action is NOW!!”
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