Orlando reproductive rights leaders speak out on the possible end of Roe v. Wade

State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, D-Orlando
State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, D-Orlando Photo by Matt Keller Lehman

State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani, D-Orlando

"It doesn't stop with dismantling abortion rights."

OW: What was your immediate reaction when you saw the news about the leak?

AVE: This is really bad and will be devastating to our collective rights, but is also what I expected to happen based on how conservative the U.S. Supreme Court is.

Was there one specific line in the SCOTUS opinion draft that caught your attention?

There are several lines that are super problematic. This is one that really stood out to me: "These attempts to justify abortion thorough appeals to a broader right to autonomy and to defined one's 'concept of existence' prove too much. Those criteria, at a high level of generality, could license fundamental rights to illicit drug use, prostitution and the like. None of these rights has any claim to being deeply rooted in history."

Here Justice Alito is explicitly criticizing cases like Obergefell v. Hodges (which legalized same-sex marriage) and thinks these are not legitimate rights "deeply rooted in history." We've always said that abortion rights were intrinsically tied to other rights like LGBTQ+ equality, and here is a clear example of that. So it doesn't just stop with dismantling abortion rights. In contrast, this is where it all starts — the unraveling of our personal freedoms.

What does this mean for Florida and for your constituents?

This means that there is no more legal federal firewall to protect Floridians from anti-abortion extremism coming out of the state Legislature. And after a seven-year court battle, Florida just became a 24-hour mandatory delay state, meaning that in order to end a pregnancy in Florida you now have to travel to a clinic, meet with a doctor, and then leave and come back 24 hours later.

This means more time off work, more travel needs, even childcare costs for folks who are already parents. So Florida is already regressing dramatically when it comes to reproductive rights and this will only make it worse.

Now, Florida does have a strong right to privacy in our state constitution, and I suspect when a lawsuit is filed on House Bill 5 — the 15-week abortion ban Gov. DeSantis just signed into law — that it'll be in state court. But due to recent appointments, our state court is much more conservative now too, and they have not yet ruled on an abortion case either.

What is your next concrete move? Any plan in place yet?

This is something that we have been planning and prepping for, for a long time. What we need to do first is make sure anyone who needs an abortion can access one. That means supporting abortion funds, volunteering at health centers as escorts, and helping to break abortion stigma by sharing our stories and supporting folks making this decision. But then there's the political fights — I know there are multiple protests being planned right now, but I need folks to knock on doors with us, come out and help others get registered to vote. We need to build power and channel our rage into electoral wins in 2022 and beyond.

What can an individual do in the short term? Where should we focus our immediate energies if we want to contribute to fighting for reproductive rights?

Support candidates running for the state Legislature who support you and your values. Due to redistricting, every single state house representative and state senator is up for re-election — now is the time to get involved and hold your elected officials accountable.

Julia Desangles, Co-Executive Director, Florida Access Network

"The future of Florida, and of the country, feels dim."

OW: What was your reaction when you saw the news?

JD: My immediate reaction was utter shock that it was made public, but ultimately [I was] not surprised at the preliminary decision to overturn Roe, because repro-leaders across the country have unfortunately been expecting this potential decision. That being said, we continue to feel disheartened and angry because of all of the harm anti-abortion legislation and federal decisions cause to pregnant people in the U.S., specifically Black, immigrant and low-income communities.

Additionally, when we talk about a "post-Roe reality," legally we're talking about a country where abortion is no longer a legal option. But to be clear, just because something is legal does not make it accessible, and our team at Florida Access Network argues that the United States is already living in a post-Roe reality. In a country where people have to work multiple jobs to make enough money to pay their overpriced rent, people don't have food to feed their families, public transportation is not a viable option and gas is higher than it's ever been, paying for an abortion and the travel necessary for their procedures is actively out of reach.

Was there one specific line in the SCOTUS opinion draft that caught your attention?

To be honest, a lot of things stood out to me. But the fact that Justice Alito referenced such outdated and misogynistic policies from the 13th and 17th centuries to support his claim that abortion should not be legal was very disturbing. No matter how you feel about abortion, a person's health should drive important medical decisions — not political agendas. Politicians should make sure abortion is safe, legal and accessible, and that's it.

What does this mean for Florida and your clients in the future?

Floridians' lives are literally at stake if Roe is overturned. Since the end of the 2022 legislative session, we have been awaiting the 15-week abortion ban that goes into effect on July 1, 2022 [seven weeks and two days from the day this article is published]. Abortions are already inaccessible for the majority of pregnant folks in the U.S. and specifically Florida, where new barriers are on the horizon.

Additionally, Florida is now under a mandatory 24-hour waiting period, which means that an abortion seeker needs to receive abortion counseling from an abortion provider and then come back after 24 hours to be able to get the procedure. Clearly, this is another unnecessary barrier for folks who have to take off work, who need to figure out childcare, transportation or lodging, and more. The future of Florida, and of the country, feels dim.

What can an individual do in the short term?

Donate to and uplift abortion funds in your community! An abortion fund is a collective of people (nonprofit or informal) that make abortion access a reality. We help people pay for abortions and navigate the barriers folks experience along the way. Some abortion funds also provide practical support, which looks like coordinating travel, lodging, providing emotional support, translation services, paying for childcare, food, or gas and providing appointment accompaniment. There are close to 100 abortion funds around the country, and every abortion fund is different from their structure to the services they offer. Find your local fund at abortionfunds.org.

Additionally, people can get involved with volunteer work at abortion funds that could involve rideshare, appointment accompaniment, emotional support and more — connect with your local fund to see what they need help with.

Finally, folks can be a part of disseminating abortion-affirming and scientifically accurate information to dispel abortion stigma across the country. You can do this by educating yourself on abortion procedures, abortion resources, and normalizing language by following abortion funds online and researching on your own. (Google can be misleading but is a great start!) With this knowledge, we need folks to be having conversations with their families, friends and communities — this work starts at home.

Annie Jae Filkowski, Policy Director at Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates

"I felt like I had been punched in my gut."

OW: What was your reaction to the leak?

AJF: My immediate visceral reaction when I saw the news was an overwhelming sense of numbness and dread. For the first time in my six years of fighting for abortion access, I was at a loss for words and felt like I had been punched in my gut. I was surprised by this reaction, since we knew this was coming. This draft opinion has been the reality of Texans for over six months now, where abortion is a right in name only.

Was there one specific line in the SCOTUS opinion draft that caught your attention?

Every single time that Justice Alito put the word liberty in quotation marks.

What does this mean for Florida and your patients in the future?

This is devastating for Floridians. The Governor's mansion and our state Legislature are currently occupied by anti-abortion extremists that are hell-bent on inserting themselves between you and your doctor when making a personal medical decision. Florida's 15-week abortion ban goes into effect on July 1. That means that Floridians who need an abortion after 15 weeks will have to travel as far as North Carolina (if they can afford it) for this care. This abortion ban will hurt Black and Brown communities, rural communities, LGBTQ+ people and houseless people the most — people with money will still be able to access abortion.

What is your next concrete move?

My biggest priority right now is to make it clear to Floridians that despite this leaked memo, abortion is still legal and that it remains your constitutional right. Planned Parenthood health centers in Florida will continue to provide compassionate and exceptional health care to our communities. If you or someone you love needs an abortion, resources exist to help you. You can visit floridareprofreedom.org/abortionislegalinflorida for up-to-date information on abortion funds, abortion providers and current restrictions to accessing abortion in Florida.

Where should we focus our immediate energies if we want to contribute to fighting for reproductive rights?

There is a place for everyone in the fight for reproductive rights, and not everyone's role looks the same. From sharing up-to-date information to driving a loved one to an appointment to donating to and volunteering your time at your local abortion fund (Florida Access Network!), to becoming a clinic escort, to registering people to vote, there is no shortage of lanes for you to jump into to support access to abortion.

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