The Phoenix Flyer

FL House Speaker Oliva calls women “host bodies” in CBS interview about abortion legislation

By: - March 1, 2019 9:59 am

Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva. CBS Miami screenshot


Republican House speaker Jose Oliva referred to women as “host bodies” in an interview with CBS Miami Thursday.

In an interview about anti-abortion measures introduced for this year’s legislative session, Oliva used the term “host body” five times.

“You realize that there are a lot of people who would hear you use phrases like ‘host body’ and say to you, ‘That’s a woman,’” reporter Jim DeFede told Oliva.

Oliva issued an apology on Friday:
“In a recent interview where the very controversial topic of abortion was raised I used the term ‘host’ to describe a pregnant woman. It was an attempt to use terminology found in medical ethics writings with the purpose of keeping the discussion dispassionate. The reaction undoubtedly shows it had the exact opposite effect. I apologize for having caused offense, my aim was the contrary. This is and will continue to be our societies greatest challenge. I strongly believe both mother and child have rights and the extent and balance of those rights remain in question. I regret my wording has distracted from the issue. My apologies to all.”

Oliva told DeFede in the interview that he believes life begins at conception.

“What time does the host body have veto power over the other life?” Oliva said in the interview, and said abortion is “a complicated issue I wish would fit neatly into libertarian thinking the way a lot of other things do.”

Among the anti-choice bills filed in the Legislature this year is a  restrictive measure that would prohibit a pregnant woman from getting an abortion in Florida if a physician detects a fetal heartbeat. A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks – so early that a woman may not even know she is pregnant. The proposal calls for physicians to do an abdominal ultrasound to test for a fetal heartbeat on any woman seeking an abortion. If a heartbeat is detected, abortion wouldn’t be allowed and doctors would face felony charges if they performed the procedure. It’s sponsored by Republican state Rep. Mike Hill of Pensacola.

In cases where a minor has been the victim of rape, Oliva acknowledged that a young woman would have “deep psychological effects” and said said the question would be “is one life worth more than the other?”

This is the first time a so-called “heartbeat” anti-abortion bill has been proposed in Florida. The law is similar to other bills introduced in Congress and at least ten states over the past decade that are seen as a coordinated challenge to the landmark Roe vs Wade law that legalized abortion. None have become laws, either because they didn’t receive sufficient support in their respective state legislatures or because they have been blocked by the courts.

On the campaign trail, Gov. Ron DeSantis said he would sign such legislation if it came to his desk. He also appointed three conservative justices to the Florida Supreme Court shortly after taking office last month

“Speaker Jose Oliva’s words are hurtful, dehumanizing, and misogynistic,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Terrie Rizzo. “You’d expect to hear this offensive language in the Handmaid’s Tale — not from the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. With the start of the legislative session just days away, Speaker Oliva has insulted Florida women — and made clear he will not be their champion in Tallahassee.”

As the Phoenix reported, state lawmakers returning to Tallahassee next week for their annual session will be greeted by a series of billboards promoting reproductive rights for Florida women. The Floridians for Reproductive Freedom coalition has launched the advertising campaign.

The reproductive-rights coalition plans a dozen billboards in the state capital as the 2019 session begins on Tuesday. One mobile billboard will move around the Capitol complex.

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Julie Hauserman
Julie Hauserman

Julie Hauserman has been writing about Florida for more than 30 years. She is a former Capitol bureau reporter for the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times, and reported for The Stuart News and the Tallahassee Democrat. She was a national commentator for National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Sunday and The Splendid Table . She has won many awards, including two nominations for the Pulitzer Prize. Her work is featured in several Florida anthologies, including The Wild Heart of Florida , The Book of the Everglades , and Between Two Rivers . Her new book is Drawn to The Deep, a University Press of Florida biography of Florida cave diver and National Geographic explorer Wes Skiles.