Florida Democrat Introduces Bill to Protect Abortion Seekers From Criminal Charges

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By Giselle Balido

September 19, 2023

Gov. Ron DeSantis claimed last week that felony criminal penalties would only apply to healthcare providers, not women, under the state’s looming six-week abortion ban. Minority Leader Lauren Book is not taking his word for it.

Florida Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book introduced a bill this week to make sure women and girls in Florida will not be prosecuted for seeking an abortion, if and when Gov. Ron DeSantis’ six-week abortion ban is upheld by the State Supreme Court and goes into effect.

Book filed Senate Bill 34, citing the six-week ban signed by DeSantis in April that would result in felony charges for “any person who willfully performs, or actively participates in, a termination of pregnancy.”

DeSantis claimed last week that felony criminal penalties would only apply to healthcare providers, not women, but given the vague text of the law, Book said she does not find the governor’s words reassuring and does not want to leave room for interpretation.  

“The Governor has said ‘that will not happen in Florida’ – but we’re not just going to take his word for it, we’re fighting to ensure it,” said Book, who calls SB 34 a “glitch bill” that makes sure women and girls are protected. 

“The imprisonment of women, girls, sexual assault survivors, and their doctors through dangerous abortion bans is cruel and anti-freedom,” she added. 

Book’s introduction of SB 34 comes days after the Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union challenging a 15-week abortion ban signed into law by DeSantis in 2022. The court’s decision is expected to be announced before the end of the year.

RELATED: Florida Supreme Court Appears Poised to Uphold DeSantis’ 6-Week Abortion Ban

If the court ultimately approves the 15-week ban, the six-week ban would take effect 30 days later, prohibiting abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, with some exceptions. The law would permit abortions up to 15 weeks in cases of rape, incest, or human trafficking. It would also leave in place existing exemptions that allow abortions up to 15 weeks, if necessary to preserve the life and the health of the mother.

Currently, Florida is the only state south of Virginia where abortion is legal through 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

Book, who was arrested earlier this year along with Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried while peacefully protesting the bans, has been an outspoken opponent of Republicans’ abortion bans. 

RELATED: ‘It’s a Scary Time’: Florida Democrats Are Fighting Back Against Six-Week Abortion Ban

In a passionate speech on the Senate floor earlier this year, Book explained that since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, women who miscarry are being denied care and sent home with sepsis; that despite fatal fetal abnormalities, mothers are denied needed abortion care; and that child sexual assault victims are being denied abortions.

Along with Leader Book, advocates from Floridians Protecting Freedom and the Reproductive Freedom Collective of Broward are fighting to put an abortion referendum on the ballot in 2024. This would give Florida voters the power to protect abortion rights until viability (which occurs roughly at 23 or 24 weeks of pregnancy).

At this time, the group has gathered more than half of the nearly 1 million signatures needed to qualify for the ballot.

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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