Advocates for abortion rights in Florida delivered a petition to Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson on September 9, 2021. Photo credit: Lauren Brenzel
Following one of the nation’s strictest anti-abortion laws enforced in Texas, advocates for women’s reproductive rights on Thursday warned state lawmakers that they are prepared to fight for abortion access in Florida, as Republicans are signaling to introduce a similar measure in the 2022 legislative session.
The Texas law targets abortions at the point when doctors detect a “fetal heartbeat” at roughly six weeks’ gestational age, though that’s a highly contested point.
On Thursday, leaders from the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates and other activists held various demonstrations and “Bans Off Our Bodies” events across Florida in opposition to the new law.
Other representatives from progressive groups joined Planned Parenthood to protect women’s rights including Equality Florida, Women’s March Florida, Progress Florida, Florida Rising and more.
“Our message to Florida leaders is clear,” Laura Goodhue, executive director for the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said in a written statement. “If you try to ban abortion in Florida, you’re in for a fight.”
While Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson pledged to consider that law in Florida, Gov. Ron DeSantis hasn’t quite committed to it but has made remarks implying that he’s interested in the idea. Simpson, a Republican, issued a written statement last week saying, “I think it’s worthwhile to take a look at the Texas law and see if there is more we can do here in Florida.”
At a rally in Spring Hill, activists were scheduled to deliver a petition to Simpson’s office. “Health care — including safe, legal abortion — is a human right,” the petition says. “And I’ll do whatever it takes to protect that right. For myself. For my community. For all of us.”
Elsewhere, State. Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Democrat representing part of Miami-Dade County, was joined by advocates at an event in Miami, raising concerns that the ban on abortions could become law in Florida.
The Texas law also allows private citizens to bring lawsuits against anyone helping to facilitate abortion services to women, offering $10,000 if they are successful in the suit.
“We are really concerned about the possibility of this Texas law being passed in the state of Florida,” Taddeo said. “We have a situation where it would be a six-week ban. Most women do not know their pregnant at six weeks. That’s the reality of it.”
Taddeo continued: “Let’s be very clear, no one is pro-abortion. We are making sure that people make their own decisions. The government has no business of getting involved in a very difficult decision for most women.”
Dr. Samantha Deans, associate medical director of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said she currently provides abortion services in Miami and called the new Texas law “a direct assault on patient autonomy.”
“No one should have their most personal medical decision controlled by politicians, neighbors, complete strangers or anyone else,” she said. “I care for people every day making these personal medical decisions.”
Deans argued that the ban on abortions would disproportionately affect Black and Latinas in Florida, saying “there is a legacy of systemic racism that has trapped Black women and Latinas in poverty.
“And they will be the ones most harmed by this ban,” she added. “Black women in Florida are already three times more likely to die from pregnancy and childbirth compared to white women.”
Another advocate in Miami, Diamond Delancy, stated that “everyone should have the freedom and power to control their own bodies.”
“When a few people in power can impose their beliefs on everyone, we are not free,” said Delancy, a Miami organizer for Planned Parenthood.
“We will not standby while our rights to control our bodies may be taken away…we do not want a six-week ban on abortion here in Florida and we will not back down.”
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