Reproductive rights conference focuses on how local governments can help

Pro-choice rally
Pro-choice rally in St. Petersburg. By Sean Kinane / WMNF News (22 January 2016).

Florida is one of the states facing extreme abortion restriction bills in the New Year. The statewide coalition, Floridians for Reproductive Freedom, is organizing local governments to protect access to reproductive healthcare.

The organization hosted a conference Thursday, featuring state and local officials such as St. Pete City Council member Darden Rice. Last summer, Rice introduced the Reproductive Rights Resolution in St. Pete, to show the city’s commitment to reproductive healthcare. The resolution passed in a 6-2 vote, with Council members Robert Blackmon and Ed Montanari opposing. Rice says local officials must stand up to state interference.

“Florida Republican Representative Barnaby has introduced a six-week anti-abortion ban House Bill 167 for the 2022 legislative session,” Rice said. “So now is a critical time to acknowledge the anti-abortion threats.”

HB 167 proposes a six-week abortion ban

HB 167 was introduced in September, by Republican Representative Webster Barnaby of Deltona. Barnaby, elected last fall, gave the opening prayers for several Donald Trump rallies. Last month, Gainesville City Commissioner David Arreola and the city passed a resolution, unanimously, to support access to reproductive freedom. He says it is important for men to show support on this issue.

“Most of these laws are written by rooms full of men,” Arreola said. “I feel it’s important for men to step up talk about the importance of opposing anti-abortion bills. Men are not going to have to face this decision in their lifetime.”

St. Pete and Gainesville’s resolutions are two of 14 across the state. Equality Florida’s Deputy Field Director, Yordanos Molla, spoke about the intersection of LGBTQ rights and reproductive rights.

“LGBTQ rights are inextricably linked to abortion rights,” Molla said. “We face the same opposition from politicians who try to control our decisions about our lives and our families.”

Local governments can fight back

Hallandale Beach Commissioner Sabrina Javellana says reproductive rights may not seem like a local issue, but it is and local officials can create meaningful change.

“We have a unique opportunity to really mitigate a very hostile climate that was created by the federal and state governments,” Javellana said. “And to innovate for our communities in ways that can advance reproductive freedom.”

Floridians for Reproductive Rights has a caravan to the capital planned for January 12.

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