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Abortion rights advocates ‘call out’ Senate president on eve of 6-week ban’s full Senate hearing


Abortion rights advocates ‘call out’ Senate president on eve of 6-week ban’s full Senate hearing

Mar 29, 2023 | 6:09 pm ET
By Briana Michel
Abortion rights advocates ‘call out’ Senate president on eve of 6-week ban’s full Senate hearing
Abortion rights activists rally in protest against six-week abortion bill at the old Florida Historic Capitol on March 29, 2023. Credit: Briana Michel

On the eve of a near-total abortion ban hearing, Florida lawmakers and abortion rights advocates rallied for what may be their final shot to protest a fast-tracking Senate proposal. They had one goal in mind: to call out the Senate president.

Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, a Republican representing Southeast Florida counties, had earlier favored a 12-week abortion ban with exceptions for rape and incest, as previously reported by the Phoenix. Now, a 6-week ban is on the table.

Progress Florida, Florida NOW (National Organization for Women), the League of Women Voters of Florida, and the National Council of Jewish Women, along with other partners, adorned the old Historic Capitol steps in hopes that their cries would fall on Passidomo’s ears.

“As a woman leading the Florida Senate, she must step up to ensure Floridians have access to the full spectrum of reproductive health care and of course that includes abortion,” President of Florida NOW, Debbie Deland, said in a press release.

Whether 15, 12, or six weeks, Progress Florida Reproductive Rights Program Director Amy Weintraub said the current legislation is government overreach and “certain leaders using our rights as pawns in their games.”

“And we are not gonna have it,” she added. “And we call out, specifically, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo to stop this nonsense.”

Florida Sen. Lori Berman, a Democrat representing part of Palm Beach County, opposes the six-week ban and the $25 million taxpayer dollars it will use to fund pregnancy crisis centers — or what she and many others deem “fake clinics.”

“We are not going to allow this kind of a ban in our state without putting up a big fight,” Berman said.

“We are going to fight this bill all the way through,” she added.

For Florida House Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat representing part of Orange County, this issue hits home. It’s no secret that Eskamani is a proud former Planned Parenthood employee who, at one point, relied on their services.

She said she’s worried about the people who don’t have money, victims of rape and incest, and those who receive a fetal diagnosis; As they may feel “pressure to make a decision before they’re ready to.”

Eskamani issued a reminder to “keep up the fight” and that regardless of what happens at the Capitol, lawmakers must ensure access.

“And if that means supporting abortion funds to transport folks to [a] place that they can get care, if that means helping to provide legal support for those who seek self-managed abortion care… to better fund those lawyers to help patients to do that,” she said.

“And if that means even going to the voters, in the future, to get this codified, we are ready to do it all, she added. “And we’re not gonna stop here.”

Fast-tracking bills are ‘getting slipped on through’ the legislature 

Christina Dow, an Equality Florida volunteer, and her family moved from Wisconsin to the Sunshine State to “live the beach life” about two and a half years ago. She hoped to be settled by now but said being in Florida has disrupted every part of her being — in every corner of any subject.

“I’m just scared,” she said. “I’m scared for my kids. I’m scared about the ‘what-ifs’ because they could be. I’m tired of it.”

“I came from a state where we were free, and we actually uplifted different marginalized communities,” she added.

Dow said showing up at the Capitol “feels like freedom.” Protesting is her chance to make a difference, but she fears party-line voting is inevitable.

“In reality, in the end, even though we’re trying, it feels to me it’s not gonna happen,” she added. “Because everything that most people — not everyone, most people — are fighting against is still getting slipped on through. And it’s most people who don’t believe like they believe on the other side.”

SB 300, sponsored by Sen. Erin Grall, a Republican representing counties in Southeast Central Florida is scheduled for what may be its final chance at a debate between Senate lawmakers this week.

Over 10 senators filed 20 amendments on Wednesday. Most of them were filed by Senate Democrats, but two GOP senators offered a couple of changes.

Grall, who has been at the forefront of abortion legislation, joined forces with her Republican colleague, Sen. Alexis Calatayud, to propose two significant changes to the bill.

One amendment adds human trafficking to the short list of exceptions in the bill, among other measures.

Though on the same side of the aisle, Calatayud repeatedly stated that she could not vote for a six-week ban without exceptions for human trafficking. On the campaign trail, Calatayud said she gave thousands of her Miami-Dade County constituents her word — a promise she plans to keep.

In a second amendment, Grall is vying to officially name the 6-week ban the “Heartbeat Protection Act,” which follows suit on the already coined “heartbeat bill” sought by many Florida anti-abortion groups.

The companion bill, HB 7, is up for a final committee meeting bright and early on Thursday. Eskamani said, “no doubt, it will be on the House floor within days.”