Anti-abortion protesters filled the rotunda of the FL Capitol building as lawmakers convened

By: - November 22, 2022 1:08 pm

At least a 100 anti-abortion protesters gathered at the Florida Capitol building on Nov. 22, 2022. Credit: Danielle J. Brown

Well over a hundred anti-abortion protesters gathered on the 4th floor of the rotunda in the Florida Capitol building on Tuesday, shouting out “make Florida totally abortion free,” as the Florida Legislature convened Tuesday for an organizational session ahead of the 2023 regular session.

While lawmakers could hear the chanting, the two new GOP leaders, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo and House Speaker Paul Renner, did not specifically address abortion in their speeches.

Protesters of all ages, including some minors, chanted dozens of slogans in the vein of fully banning abortion in Florida. Currently, Florida has a 15-week abortion.  The protest was organized by Florida Voice for the Unborn.

“Pro-life Republicans: step up,” one chant went.

“No more exceptions,” went another.

“Hee! Hee! Ho! Ho! Abortion’s got to go,” they also chanted. The variations went on as the organizational session ended in both the House and Senate.

Lawmakers leaving from the two chambers, some with family members, largely ignored the protest occurring in the rotunda.

The Florida Voice for the Unborn group also delivered postcards to lawmakers to push for further abortion restrictions. Later, they had an afternoon press conference outside on the steps of the Historic Capitol building.

Andrew Shirvell, head of the group, discussed how a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June — the landmark Roe v. Wade case — that overturned federal protections of access to abortions gave Florida and other state legislatures authority to shape abortion policies.

“Roe is gone,” Shirvell said. “Our U.S. Supreme Court said ‘states, you can stop all abortions’ — it didn’t say anything about exceptions – ‘all abortions from the moment of conception, if you so choose.’”

He said that there are “no more excuses,” meaning Shirvell would want lawmakers to eliminate abortions altogether.

Meanwhile, the newly sworn-in Senate President Kathleen Passidomo has a different approach to abortion laws in Florida.

Passidomo, a Republican who represents part of Collier and Hendry County, has criticized certain abortion policies in the past, such as a Texas-style six weeks abortion ban. At the time, Passidomo had been concerned about an enforcement measure that would allow citizens to sue people who provide or enable abortions.

During a press gaggle after the organizational session, Passidomo was asked about the anti-abortion protesters.

“I didn’t even know they were here,” she responded. “I was so wrapped up in what was going on and so nervous and whatever, I found out that they were here afterward.” She does hope to enact exemptions to the ban for rape and incest, however, she said at the gaggle.

But Shirvell, at the afternoon rally outside the Capitol, said that he will be meeting with Passidomo’s staff next week.

“We know we have to focus on the Senate. So Senator Passidomo said that she was in favor of a 12-week abortion ban, with exceptions for rape and incest,” Shirvell said, which elicited a large groan from the crowd in disapproval.

“She’s one of the most powerful people in Florida state government. She can hold things up in committees. She can kill a bill. All sorts of bad things can happen.” Shirvell said. “So, if we reach her heart, and we reach her people’s heart, her advisors, show her, then, all the pro-lifers like myself that came out today, that signed those postcards, that we want life at conception, I think God is going to really move her heart,” Shirvell said.

Deputy Editor Michael Moline contributed to this post.

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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.