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Dwindling rights of women in Florida

We, as Americans, love and enjoy our freedom. Many have fought for these freedoms on the battlefields, the streets, and the halls of Congress. Unfortunately, some of the freedoms that have been won to those that have been excluded, such as people who had been enslaved and women, are being eroded by extremist political actors. In this episode of Perspective, we will focus on the Abortion Ban that was passed by the Florida legislature this year and how it rolls back the rights and freedom of women in our community.

What's going on?

In late February/early March 2022 the House Bill 5 and Senate Bill 146 was passed by the Florida House and Senate, these are some of the most restrictive bans on abortions in the country and are due to be put into effect on the 1st of July 2022 with the signature and “proud” support of governor Ron DeSantis. This Abortion bill will ban the procedure after 15 weeks, with no exceptions for rape, incest, or human trafficking, this puts Florida in the contest for pole position as the state with the more restrictive abortion laws in the country. Mississippi created a similar ban but this is being reviewed by the Supreme Court as a move toward such bans would undo decades of rights that have been defined in this country. The Bill singles out all women, with dangerous targets for reporting and intervention. One such intervention is the push to reduce and discourage smoking not just in pregnant women, but women who may become pregnant, this could mean around 4 million women in Florida from teen years to women in their 40s could have increased scrutiny around the topic, regardless of their fertility plans. There will also be a panel created specifically to track abortions and other pregnancy issues which sets a platform for heavy scrutiny of women and this could be setting a precedent for further privacy infringements and legal actions taking away the rights of 51% of Florida’s population.

How did we get here?

Conservative and evangelical activists have been pushing to end abortions for decades, they have had a long-term strategy to take over the state and local governments with far-right politicians to achieve this goal. Those far-right groups such as the Family Research Council, the National Right to Life Committee, and the American Family Association fund politicians and craft messaging to sway the legislature to achieve their goal of ending abortion. Their strategy has also included pushing legislation in states with a conservative majority to create a legal precedent to overturn decisions that support abortions such as Roe v Wade. Roe v Wade is the SCOTUS case that ruled 7-2 in 1973 so that anybody seeking an abortion has the right to medical privacy, the anti-abortion groups want to overturn this so that they can have access to the information of those having abortions to harass and deter them. This is a clear example of why Florida’s Abortion Ban is unconstitutional and violates the strong privacy clause in Florida’s State Constitution. Unfortunately, this is not the first sign of legal barriers to abortion being put in place to make access to this medical care more difficult, anti-abortion politicians have already pushed it out of reach for many. For example, making in-person ultrasound visits mandatory, giving those seeking abortion care State-printed/biased information pamphlets, requiring people under 18 to have notarized permission from a parent for abortion care, restricting the provision of abortion to only physicians, and the onerous regulations and reporting requirements causing general medical practices to not offer abortions. This last point means those seeking abortion care have to seek out providers, however, 73% of Florida countries currently have no abortion providers, this leaves many people in impossible positions already and with the new legislature, it will only become harder.

What happens next?

Once the Abortion Ban becomes law in Florida on July 1st, pregnant people will have limited options for seeking medical care as many providers will be under additional scrutiny and may stop services, with this an influx of new challenges will arise for not only the individuals, but the State. People seeking abortions may have to leave the State and a new generation of children may be born to mothers unprepared to care for them, potentially perpetuating intergenerational poverty and trauma. This will also hurt the social and economic advancement opportunities of mothers, especially in Southwest Florida where single mothers already have the highest rate of poverty, and curtailing access to abortion will only exacerbate problems like this. Young people and people of color face additional barriers to abortion care, such as high rates of poverty, stress, and a working-class schedule. These are the pregnant people that will be most affected by this Abortion ban. There will be legal challenges to the law that could immediately stop its implementation while courts make a decision, SCOTUS decision on a similar law in Mississippi will determine whether or not the Florida Abortion ban is Constitutional. Many believe that with a conservative super-majority on SCOTUS that Roe v Wade will be overturned, effectively outlawing abortion in the US.

What do we need to know?

In the simplest form, abortion is health care. Many people are opposed to abortion because they don’t want to hurt children, and although it is ok to have personal and religious beliefs and follow them, It is not ok to impose those personal and religious beliefs on others. That is what freedom and separation of church and State means. The fact is, every person and every pregnancy is different and we need to acknowledge this and respect people’s privacy and decisions. These one-size-fits-all laws have no place in healthcare delivery or the state’s public health laws. Abortion is safe and incredibly common globally, we, as Americans, should be able to get care when we need it without shame or outside influence. Abortion bans do not stop abortions, it just stops safe abortions, as people who become pregnant will continue to seek abortions if they are in a desperate situation, and with these bans, people may seek this medical care in dangerous ways.

Unfortunately, there is not much we can do from here, but we can still do something. We can lift our voices in support of women and freedom in order to continue putting pressure on politicians, legislature, and SCOTUS to protect our right to privacy. We can run for office to try to balance the legislature, or vote for pro-choice candidates. You have a right to privacy. You have a right to determine when and where to start a family. The government and politicians should not be making these decisions for us, your healthcare decisions should be between you and your doctor, no matter what politicians think. If you think abortion is wrong, you do not have to have one. Otherwise, mind your business. Even prominent Catholics, such as President Joe Biden, support abortion care because they believe in religious freedom, freedom means you do not owe anyone an explanation for your private medical decisions. Therefore, let's leave decisions on abortion to women and their health care providers.

Watch my episode of Perspective on Lee Pitts Live on this topic.

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