Texas abortion law gives Florida Republicans green light for similar restrictions

click to enlarge Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby - Photo via NSF
Photo via NSF
Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby

While Gov. Ron DeSantis said people shouldn’t “read too much into” the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to block a Texas law that bans almost all abortions, Republican legislative leaders indicated Thursday they will determine if Florida can enact similar restrictions.

Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, called the Texas law “a new approach,” with the Supreme Court’s 5-4 ruling “encouraging.”

“As an adoptive child myself, it’s important to me that we do everything we can to promote adoption and prevent abortion; therefore, I think it’s worthwhile to take a look at the Texas law and see if there is more we can do here in Florida,” Simpson said in a statement.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, issued a separate statement indicating he expects the issue to be pursued during the 2022 legislative session, which begins in January.

“In Florida, we agree that killing an innocent human being with a beating heart is wrong,” Sprowls said in the statement. “It is why we have worked every session to strengthen protections for unborn babies, including those for unborn children with disabilities last session, and it is why I am confident that those who share this moral view in the Florida House will continue the fight.”

But Democratic lawmakers quickly condemned the Supreme Court decision and Republican leaders for considering bringing similar legislation to Florida.

“More jaw-dropping hypocrisy from FL’s GOP ‘leaders’ who say it is their choice to wear a mask, but not a woman's choice what to do with her body,” Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, tweeted, referring to opposition to mask mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We’re always working —- working on ways to thwart whatever backwards and cruel legislation they draft in dark rooms late at night.”

The Texas bill, signed into law in May by Gov. Greg Abbott, prohibits abortions after the presence of a fetal heartbeat is detected, which can occur six weeks into a pregnancy. The law makes exceptions for medical emergencies. Also, the law authorizes private citizens to sue people who perform or assist in the procedures after six weeks.

DeSantis, who holds a law degree from Harvard University, told reporters in West Palm Beach on Thursday he welcomes legislation to restrict abortions, but he added that the Supreme Court decision might not have been a “substantive ruling.” While the Supreme Court refused to block the Texas law from taking effect, it did not rule on the underlying constitutional issues.

“They (justices) basically said it's not ripe yet for a decision, that if it ends up going, then you could consider it at that time,” DeSantis said when asked if he would support similar legislation to the Texas law. “So, I wouldn't read too much into it. But I do think that at the end of the day, the science on this has been very powerful now for a long time. If you go back 40 years ago, what people thought versus what they can see now, very, very powerful.”

In July, DeSantis joined 10 other Republican governors in signing a brief that called for the U.S. Supreme Court to reject the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision and leave abortion issues to states. The brief, filed by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster in a Mississippi abortion case, took aim at Roe v. Wade and a 1992 decision in a case known as Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

While the Mississippi case remains pending, the Supreme Court’s refusal to block the Texas law immediately fueled debates about whether states such as Florida should pursue similar restrictions.

State Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, called for advocates of women’s rights to “organize like we’ve never organized before.”

“This isn't a vague threat from Republicans —- they relish the opportunity to take away the rights of women to make their own health care choices,” Taddeo said.

As they have controlled the governor’s office and the Legislature for more than two decades, Republicans have passed a series of abortion restrictions and considered others.

During the session that ended in April, the House overwhelmingly passed a bill that would have prevented doctors from providing abortions that women seek because of tests showing fetuses will have disabilities. The bill about so-called “disability abortions” threatened criminal penalties against doctors, but the Senate did not take it up.

As part of his statement Thursday, Simpson said he will “continue to champion funding for options like Hormonal Long Acting Reversible Contraception, which prevents unplanned pregnancies that lead to abortions.”

“Child welfare reforms that support children, parents, and members of the extended family willing to take on child rearing responsibilities are also important to me,” Simpson said in his statement. “Providing approaches like HLARC give young people the opportunity to delay parenting without the trauma and carnage brought on by abortion, while investments in child welfare programs create an environment in our state where young parents can feel confident that there are options other than abortion and they will be supported in their decision to choose life for their babies.”

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