Miami Herald (Sunday)
Fearing Texasinspired law, Democrats target abortion restrictions
Florida Democrats in the House of Representatives plan to help pass a nationwide abortion rights bill in the next few weeks in response to the new Texas law that went unchallenged by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Women’s Health Protection Act would implement a nationwide right to abortion and put into law legal protections for an abortion that were previously upheld by the Supreme Court, notably Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, two cases that established and upheld the right to an abortion.
“Now that the Supreme Court’s inaction on the Texas case has emboldened states like our own to enact abortion restrictions, that is why the Congress needs to pass the Women’s
Health Protection Act,” Democratic U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel said during a virtual press conference Thursday morning.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House will vote on the bill shortly after returning from summer break on Sept. 20.
The bill likely has the support to pass the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives, but its passage is unlikely in the U.S. Senate, where 60 votes would be needed to enact it. Two Senate Democrats, Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Joe Manchin of West Virginia, have voted for abortion restrictions in the past, and only two Republican senators, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Susan Collins of Maine, have voted against restricting abortion.
Florida Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio would likely oppose any bills that expand abortion access.
Meanwhile, the Biden administration weighed in on the effort on Thursday, when the U.S. Department of Justice announced it was suing the state of Texas to try to block the state’s abortion law, arguing it was “clearly unconstitutional under longstanding Supreme
WHAT TEXAS ENACTED
The announcement comes as Florida Democrats are pledging to fight any bills in the state Legislature inspired by SB 8, the new Texas law that outlaws abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, before most women know they are pregnant. Similar so-called “heartbeat” bills have been previously proposed in other states, including Florida. But in Texas, the new law empowers civilians to report violations that could result in at least $10,000 in damages if they succeed in court.
The Florida Legislature has taken up efforts to pass new abortion restrictions nearly every session. Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson issued a statement last week when the bill was signed into law, saying
“it’s worthwhile to take a look at the Texas law and see if there is more we can do here in Florida.” But he stopped short of specifying what restrictions Florida lawmakers would consider in the legislative session that begins Jan. 11.
Miami Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Democrat, said during a press conference in Doral she was concerned about Florida Republicans suggesting they are willing to take on new anti-abortion legislation and calling the Texas law the “Rapist’s Bill of Rights,” in reference to the lack of exceptions for rape or incest.
“When we’re talking about abused, in many situations children, they’ve already been abused by their abuser and now they’re going to be abused again by their government,” said Taddeo, who has hinted at a possible run for governor in 2022.
She also compared the civilian enforcement of the ban to a culture of political repression in Cuba, where neighbors have been encouraged to act as vigilantes to report their own neighbors to the regime over anti-government sentiment.
“This law specifically in Texas, the one they want to bring to Florida, would do that here in Florida. That civilians would be the ones who are patrolling: in what car did they get into, where did they go, if they’ve gone to an [abortion] center. Which by the way, many women go to these centers simply so they can prevent getting pregnant,” said Taddeo. “When I was young and I had no health insurance, I used to go to Planned Parenthood to receive the pill. That’s what is happening today with so many people.”
OUT-OF-STATE PATIENTS SEEKING CARE
Laura Goodhue, executive director for Florida’s Planned Parenthood affiliates, said a Texas-style law in Florida would impose major restrictions on any woman seeking abortion across the entire southern U.S.
She said Planned Parenthood sites in Jacksonville and Tallahassee have seen an increase in patients from Georgia and Alabama due to a lack of abortion providers in those states. Another ban on abortions six weeks into pregnancy in the South’s two largest states would mean more patients heading to overworked clinics in Louisiana and other southern states, Goodhue said.
“This means practically one half of the country would be without abortion access,” Goodhue said.
Dr. Samantha Deans, associate medical director at Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida, said it was not accurate to say that a heartbeat can be heard after six weeks of pregnancy because a fetus has not yet developed the heart valves that pump blood into the body.
“That is based on the technology and the quality of your ultrasound. The sound that you are referring to is actually just ultrasonic waves that come from the machine and create feedback as they hit the electrical activity of the cells. It is not a heartbeat, there is no blood that exists in an embryo to beat through a heart,” said Deans during the press conference in Doral. “Valves don’t exist until eight weeks of an embryological development and 10 weeks of pregnancy.”
Democratic U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who said her own pregnancy wasn’t detected for eight weeks, said she anticipates a mass public pressure campaign in Texas and Florida if the Legislature chooses to move forward with a Texas-style law.
Wasserman Schultz brought up examples of Atlanta losing the Major League Baseball All-Star Game after the state passed restrictions on voting, and threats from the NCAA and other sporting organizations to cancel events in North Carolina after the state compelled schools to restrict use of bathrooms to users based on the corresponding sex listed on their birth certificates as potential consequences Florida would face if it passes an abortion ban.
But Democratic state Rep. Dotie Joseph said she doesn’t think economic pressure will sway many of her Republican colleagues.
“All we’ll see them is being dubbed a ‘woke corporation,’ ” Joseph said when asked about the prospect of boycotts from businesses. “I don’t know that it moves [Republicans] in any way, shape or form.”
Democratic state Sen. Lori Berman said some elected Republicans could ultimately be swayed not to make abortion restrictions a central part of their campaigns to appeal to suburban women, though she did not anticipate that many Florida Republicans at the state or federal level would vote against enacting Texas-style legislation.
“I don’t think it’s the state boycotts, but I do think there’s an issue with moderate Republican women who do support abortion,” Berman said.