By: Danielle J. Brown –
In less than a year, Florida has moved from a 15-week abortion ban to the passage of one of the most restrictive bans in the nation — a 6-week abortion ban.
The state House approved the legislation after at least six hours of questions, amendments, debate, protests and a final vote that will clear the way for Gov. Ron DeSantis to consider the bill. The Senate had already approved the ban earlier in April.
The pivotal piece of legislation is already garnering attention and scrutiny, including from the Biden administration.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre provided a statement that includes:
“Florida’s Republican supermajority-controlled legislature sent an extreme and dangerous new abortion ban to Governor DeSantis’s desk for signature. The ban flies in the face of fundamental freedoms and is out of step with the views of the vast majority of the people of Florida and of all the United States.”
“This ban would prevent four million Florida women of reproductive age from accessing abortion care after six weeks — before many women even know they’re pregnant. This ban would also impact the nearly 15 million women of reproductive age who live in abortion-banning states throughout the South, many of whom have previously relied on travel to Florida as an option to access care.”
Kara Gross, ACLU of Florida’s legislative director and senior policy counsel, stated: “The Florida Legislature just passed a near-total abortion ban, even though Floridians overwhelmingly support safe, legal, and accessible abortion care … Gov. DeSantis has made it clear that he intends to ignore the will of the people and continue to harm pregnant Floridians by further restricting their access to care, despite the fact that two-thirds of Floridians support the right to this necessary medical care.”
The House chamber adopted the Senate’s version of the bill, SB 300, and lawmakers voted 70 to 40, with several Republican House members voting against the bill, and nine lawmakers — Republicans and Democrats alike — who didn’t vote.
Most of the lawmakers who spoke in favor of the legislation were men.
Only four women argued in support of the bill — and two of them sponsored the legislation in the House.
The legislation has exceptions for victims of rape, incest and human trafficking. Those victims would be subjected to the 15-week timeframe that Florida law currently imposes to terminate the pregnancy.
The 6-week abortion ban has other restrictions: People would have to obtain an abortion in the presence of a physician, even for medically-induced abortions, creating additional hurdles for people seeking an abortion within the proposed six-week time frame.
Telehealth services to obtain an abortion, even medically-induced abortions, are prohibited. Patients could not receive medically-induced abortions through the mail either.
Black women discuss abortion
Rep. Kiyan Michael, a Republican who represents part of Duval County, was one of the only females who stood up and voiced her support of the legislation during the hours of debate. She is a Black woman and said that she finds it appalling that people are fighting to “continue exterminating, to continue killing Black babies” through abortions.
Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka (left) and Rep. Jennifer Canady (right) discussing SB 300 on April 13, 2023. The two women were primary sponsors of the 6-week abortion ban. The House ultimately approved the legislation. Credit: Danielle J. Brown
“‘A woman’s right to choose’ — I’ve heard people talk about that. Well, that right to choose begins before you have sex. It should not be after you have sex,” Michael said. “I’ve heard… ‘abortion is health care,’ but how does health care end with a dead baby? Makes absolutely no sense.”
The House Democrat leader, Rep. Fentrice Driskell, also a Black woman, argued in favor of abortion access.
“As a Black woman, who’s also heard those old-tired arguments — that abortion is a way to suppress the Black population – no, no, it’s not any of that,” Driskell said in opposition of the bill.
“Abortion’s health care. Plain and simple. Health care that women enjoyed the right to for over 50 years. It was protected for 50 years. It was nearly 50-years protected…until the Supreme Court threw it out. Regardless of how you feel on this issue as Americans, we should all be concerned. When we have a Supreme Court taking rights away, I’m concerned about the direction that this nation is heading in.”
Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby, a Democrat who represents part of the Tampa Bay area, said that reproductive justice and abortion helps women have the right to either have children, or not.
“Reproductive justice is the belief that all women and birthing people have the right to have children. Have the right not to have children,” said Rep. Rayner-Goolsby. “Have the right to nurture that child and have the right to nurture that child in a safe healthy environment. With this bill we are removing people’s bodily autonomy and making decisions about one of the most personal health care situations.”
Rep. Dana Trabulsy, a Republican who represents part of St. Lucie County, spoke in support of SB 300. She briefly discussed the regret she’s felt about her seeking abortion when she was younger, a story that she told lawmakers in 2022 when the Legislature approved Florida’s current 15-week abortion ban.
“My own story was about my own regret with my own decision to have an abortion, when I was younger…when I made the wrong decision and I live with that regret every day. And I’m not gonna retell that story again, but what I am gonna tell you is since I told that story last year, I cannot even count the number of emails I’ve gotten, the number of phone calls I’ve taken, and the number I’ve doors I knocked on during election time, where women have opened up to me and told me a story similar.”
Rep. Kelly Skidmore, a Democrat who represents part of Palm Beach County, urged lawmakers to stay out of personal medical decisions of those who are pregnant.
“I have a story and it’s my story — and quite frankly it’s none of your business, and I don’t need to share it with you to make it real, because it’s real to me,” Rep. Skidmore said.
“I don’t need your advice on my personal health care choices. I don’t want or need your presence in my exam room. My sisters don’t want your advice or presence in their exam room. And my daughter doesn’t want your advice or presence in her exam room,” she added.
“We don’t need your help putting on our paper gowns. We don’t need your help putting our feet in ice cold stirrups. I don’t need you peering over my shoulder or peeking under the sheet. Don’t want an abortion? Don’t have one. Keep your sanctimonious opinions for your own family and stay out of mine. Save your Bible verses for teaching your own family and stay out of mine, and I’ll stay out of yours,” Skidmore continued.
Restricting rights or preserving ‘life’?
Rep. Felicia Robinson, a South Florida Democrat, “I’m speaking to all the women — not just here, in this chamber — that’s in Florida. Are we truly trying to go back? If they take this right away from us, who’s to say they’re not going to say that we don’t have the right to vote one day? Or we don’t have the right to go to work one day?”
“You know, there was a time when they wanted a woman to be — what? Barefoot and pregnant and in the kitchen. We’re not going back. So you best watch out, because it always starts with one thing.”
Rep. Marie Paule Woodson, a South Florida Democrat, argued that if a women can carry a child, why can’t she make her own decisions regarding abortion and pregnancy?
“I believe that I can make a decision for myself, because I came to this United States by myself,” Woodson argued. She was born in Port-de-Paix, Haiti, according to the House of Representatives website.
“I am deeply offended by the fact that we are sitting here thinking that a woman cannot decide for herself. That a daughter cannot decide for herself,” Woodson said. “I have a 22-year-old daughter. Guess what? She is very smart. She’s very bright and she knows, if facing a similar situation, she will be able to decide for herself. I, as a mother, won’t even interfere, because she’s 22 and she can make that decision for herself.”
Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, a Republican who carried the bill in the House, said that the Florida Legislature has “the opportunity to lead the national debate about the importance of protecting life and giving every child the opportunity to be born and find his or her purpose.”
“For the past 50 years, we’ve had a culture grow in this nation — a culture of abortion, for any reason, at any time,” she said.
“This culture refuses to discuss when is the life of an unborn child important? When does his or her life matter? This culture refuses to discuss… that abortions can have serious repercussions on the women who undergo the procedure especially later in term,” Persons-Mulicka claimed. “It is physically dangerous and is mentally and psychologically dangerous to these women. Well, today as a woman, as a mother, as a sister, as a friend, as a legislator — I stand in front of you and I choose to lead.”
Who didn’t vote:
Fabián Basabe, Republican, representing part of Miami-Dade County.
Robert Charles “Chuck” Brannan III, Republican, representing the counties of Baker, Bradford, Columbia, Union, and Part of Alachua.
Kimberly Daniels, Democrat, representing part of Duval County.
Dotie Joseph, Democrat, representing part of Miami-Dade County.
Traci Koster, Republican, representing part of Hillsborough County.
Fiona McFarland, Republican, representing part of Sarasota County.
James Vernon “Jim” Mooney, Jr., Republican, representing Monroe County and part of Miami-Dade County.
Paula A. Stark, Republican, representing parts of Orange, Osceola counties
Cyndi Stevenson, Republican, part of St. Johns County.
Republicans against the bill:
Michael Caruso, Republican, representing part of Palm Beach County
Karen Gonzolez Pittman, Republican, representing part of Hillsborough County
Peggy Gossett-Seidman, Republican, representing part of Palm Beach County
Sam Killebrew, Republican, representing part of Polk County
Chip LaMarca, Republican, representing part of Broward County
Vicki Lopez, Republican, representing part of Miami-Dade County
Rick Roth, Republican, representing part of Palm Beach County
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.
Published under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0.