By Benjamin J. Rizzo, Red Phoenix correspondent, Florida.
The Florida Legislature began its annual session on March 7, and with it came the introduction of new measures by that body’s overwhelming right-wing majority to achieve their long sought goal of virtually eliminating reproductive rights in the Sunshine State.
In the House, Republican Reps. Jenna Persons-Mulicka and Jennifer Canady are the sponsors of HB 7, which, when it goes into effect, would ban abortions in Florida after the gestational age of 6 weeks (down from the cut-off of 15 weeks that was passed by the Legislature in 2022). The Senate companion bill is SB 300, sponsored by Republican Sen. Erin Grall, and with the same exact provisions as the House measure. Given the composition of forces in the Legislature, this measure is guaranteed to pass and be signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has already stated that he will do that.
This legislation would end almost all abortions in Florida. It “means many pregnant people will never have the option to have an abortion,” said Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates. “Moreover, between the 24-hour mandatory delay and two appointment requirements [under state law], even patients who realize they are pregnant before six weeks may be unable to access abortion care before they run out of time.
“We are already seeing the toll that a 15-week ban is taking on the health and well-being of pregnant people and their families in Florida,” said Goodhue. “Further restricting abortion before the Florida Supreme Court has even weighed in on the last ban can only create worse outcomes.
“Evidence shows that when people are denied abortions, their long-term well-being and that of their children, if they have them, suffers,” Goodhue said. “That burden falls disproportionately on Black and Latino communities, who, because of systemic discrimination in employment, housing, and public resources, are more likely to have low incomes and struggle to access health care. Abortion bans like the bill introduced today perpetuate these cycles of inequality.”
The impact of this new measure would be felt not just by Floridians but by people from southeastern states who in recent years have flocked to Florida to escape their states’ harsh abortion laws and obtain the care they need. (Until the spring of 2022, abortion was allowed in Florida up to 24 weeks of gestation.)
“It is hugely problematic if Florida increases even more its limitations on access to abortion. It’s the third-largest state in the country. It’s a place where people can travel from other states,” Nancy Northup, head of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told The 19th News. “It’s of huge concern.”
HB 7 and SB 300 contain several other draconian provisions in addition to the ban on abortions after six weeks:
- They impose burdensome requirements on survivors of rape and incest (although it does allow them to have a termination up to 15 weeks of pregnancy). Patients would have to provide documentation right before having their procedure, such as “a copy of a restraining order, police report, medical record, or other court order or documentation proving that she (sic) is obtaining the termination of pregnancy because she (sic) is a victim of rape or incest.”
- They prohibit doctors from prescribing abortion-inducing pills over the Internet via telehealth, which makes it more difficult for pregnant people to obtain these medications.
- Performing an abortion would be a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. Examples of third-degree felonies in Florida include aggravated stalking, theft of a vehicle or firearm, and trespassing while armed.
- An abortion which results in the “death of the woman (sic)” would be a second-degree felony, punishable by to 15 years in prison. Examples of second-degree felonies in Florida include extortion, vehicular homicide, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. In actuality, abortion has a far lower mortality rate than childbirth, according to a 2012 study published in the Open Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
- The measures would allow terminations after six weeks if two doctors “certify in writing that… the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s (sic) life or avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment.” No mention is made, however, about how a low-income person without access to healthcare or the means to pay for doctors’ visits out of pocket is supposed to exercise their rights under this provision.
A spokesperson for SWAN (Stand With Abortion Now), an Orlando-area clinic defense organization, reacted to the introduction of this measure:
“This bill is likely to pass due to the Republican majority in the Florida legislature. The bill itself is among the most draconian in the nation, outlawing self-managed abortion [pills], an incredibly safe and effective mechanism for terminating a pregnancy. It also makes assisting a person seeking an abortion in-state a crime as well. The bill purports to include exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the pregnant person. However, as has been demonstrated time and again, these ‘exceptions’ exist to garner political tolerance for the subjugation of women and others who can become pregnant, not out of any practical purpose. Exceptions in all instances remain nearly impossible to obtain. Every sponsor and supporter of this ban understands that and does not care. Like so many of the things Florida Republicans and ex-Gitmo torturer Ron DeSantis propose and pass, the wanton cruelty is the point.
“However, SWAN remains committed to being on the ground and fighting for reproductive healthcare access for all Floridians, particularly the population we serve in Central Florida. At our core we are an anti-fascist organization, and while we don’t expect our task to be easy, we do intend to take on the growing fascism of Ron DeSantis and his cronies to the best of our abilities. We will need assistance and solidarity from groups across the nation and globe, some of which we’ve already been able to accumulate, harness, and direct toward providing care and protection for our community. We will need support and understanding from all people who seek to end oppression as we continue our essential work.
“Ron DeSantis can and will remain a cretinous human being, a wretched pox on the history of this state and of humanity. He can and will continue to push for the eradication of equality, kindness, and community across the state. SWAN volunteers face disgusting Christofascists outside of our clinics nearly daily. As such, we remain unwavering in our support for abortion rights. We are committed to the fight until the very end — and after — for ourselves, our communities, and our freedoms.”
Categories: Health Care, U.S. News, Women