In Tampa, pro-choice activists rally against Tallahassee anti-abortion legislation

04/28/11 Kate Bradshaw
WMNF Drive-Time News Thursday | Listen to this entire show:


Usually when you see people picketing outside Planned Parenthood, they’re protesting against abortion rights. Today the demonstrators were the organization’s supporters, and they were rallying in Tampa against six measures in the state legislature that target a woman’s ability to terminate a pregnancy.

Tampa resident Farah Stokes was in high school during the sixties, a time before Roe v. Wade. She said some of her classmates had their youth cut short because of limited access to contraception.

She said privileged girls would be sent away to states where abortion was legal, but not every girl had that option.

Stokes was demonstrating in front of Planned Parenthood’s local headquarters against a series of laws that would limit a woman’s ability to terminate a pregnancy. Barbara Zdravecky, CEO of Southwest and Central Florida Planned Parenthood said the state legislature is targeting women for no good reason.

At issue are several proposed laws the house passed yesterday targeting a woman’s ability to get an abortion. Two of them passed the Senate today. HJR 1179 places an amendment on the 2012 ballot that, if passed by 60 percent of voters, would place a ban on public funding for the procedure in the state Constitution. It’s already banned by federal law. Southwest and Central Florida Planned Parenthood spokesperson Wendy Sears Grassi said anything that would limit coverage for women’s health care is outrageous and unconstitutional.

There are six anti-abortion laws in all. One, HB 501, would channel proceeds from sales of Florida’s “Choose Life” license plates to a pro-life nonprofit providing care to pregnant women. Another, HB 1397, further limits third trimester abortions. HB 1247 toughens parental notification requirements for minors. HB 97 bars health exchanges created by the Affordable Care Act from cover the procedure – that one also passed the Senate today. Championed by the likes of Valrico Senator Ronda Storms, the most controversial abortion bill of all may be HB 1127. It requires women seeking abortions to have an ultrasound, though she could opt out of viewing the image or hearing a doctor’s description of it.

That’s Joyce Hamilton-Henry, Director of the Mid-Florida regional office of the ACLU. The ultrasound bill is nearly identical to a bill that former governor Charlie Crist vetoed last year. Hamilton-Henry said requiring that certain speech take place between a woman and her doctor is a violation of the Freedom of Speech clause of the First Amendment.

In Tampa Wednesday, Democratic US Representative from Tampa Kathy Castor said the law seems to contradict the right of privacy outlined in the state constitution.

Planned Parenthood’s Wendy Sears Grassi said the laws add up to an attack on women’s health, and said if the legislature really wanted to address the issue of unwanted pregnancy, more lawmakers would file bills dealing with prevention.

Many of those recently elected to the state legislature won their seats with help from a recession-torn electorate convinced that “tea party” Republicans would create jobs by lowering taxes and abolishing stringent regulations. Sears Grassi said the past few days show what the legislature’s GOP supermajority is really about.

US Representative Kathy Castor said Wednesday that the bills do nothing less than impair access to quality health care for women.

Once passed, all bills require the signature of Governor Rick Scott, an extreme conservative who will likely sign them into law. Groups including Planned Parenthood and the ACLU said they will fight the bills, even if it means taking legal action, if the bills make it onto the books.

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