A Florida lawmaker is working to overturn an historic U.S. Supreme decision from 40 years ago called Roe v. Wade. It essentially establishes the right to have an abortion. But, some say now may not be the right time for the state to move forward with legislation that would essentially ban abortions.
“I didn’t do that intentionally. Had I finished the bill early last week, I would have filed it last week. It just happened to fall on the 40th anniversary, which I’m actually glad,” said Representative Charles Van Zant.
It's the first abortion bill (HB 395) of the Florida Legislative 2013 Session and it's also Van Zant's 4th attempt at filing the “Florida For Life Act." The Republican says he just happened to file his bill banning abortions on the day that marks 40 years of the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v Wade—the ruling that legalized abortions in the U.S.
“Typically, what it [my bill] would do is to take our laws in Florida back 40 years ago before Roe v. Wade," said Van Zant. "At that time, abortions were illegal, with the exception of the life or health of the mother and that’s exactly what this bill does.”
While the bill prohibits abortions, it would allow a woman to have an abortion if her life was in danger. It also offers free services if the mother-to-be wants to put her baby up for adoption.
“There are many, many families that want to adopt a young child and stand ready to proceed with that adoption immediately even before the child is born, if the mother wants to, so that she doesn’t have to suffer from having to raise the child if she doesn’t want the child," remarked Van Zant.
"But, my gosh, we need to stop murdering these little children. We need to stop killing them, and we need to give them an opportunity to have their lives and that’s the impetus that is driving me to do this bill.”
But, Sheila Hopkins with the Florida Catholic Conference says while she admires Van Zant’s commitment, it will be a fight for him to get this bill heard in the Florida Legislature this year.
“It’s probably going to be difficult. Obviously, it would be nice if we could do that. However, because of the Roe v. Wade decision, no state at this particular time can outlaw abortions,” said Hopkins.
Recent polls, like one done by the Washington Post-Wall Street Journal, show that most American adults are not in favor of overturning Roe v. Wade or illegalizing abortions. Hopkins, however, is remaining optimistic.
“The Marist organization just did a poll that really just said the opposite that said they’re close to 50-percent who do believe in pro-life. So, it’s hard to tell. It depends on how the question was framed up and who they talked to,” said Hopkins.
But, pro-choice advocates, like the CEO of Planned Parenthood of North Florida Staci Fox, say those poll numbers show Americans want women to have the right to choose. That’s why she says it would be wrong to deny women that right—something she says Van Zant’s bill would do.
“If we go back and look back at the Election and the impact that women’s issues, specifically reproductive rights issues had, women and those who support women in the difficult decisions that they make in their lives, spoke loud and clear in this election, not just for the White House, but all over the country. So, I think that our tolerance on a legislative plane has really decreased for these type of extremist bills,” said Fox.
Recently, more than 60-percent of Floridians rejected Amendment 6, one of 11 amendments on the November ballot. It would have prohibited the use of taxpayer dollars for abortions, except in certain cases.
Meanwhile, the Florida Catholic Conference and Representative Van Zant say they’re going to continue their pro-life fight and are encouraged by a recent Alabama Supreme Court decision that expands the definition of a “child” to include the “unborn” and could open the door to outlawing abortion across the country.
Planned Parenthood’s Staci Fox says her group is keeping an eye on the Alabama decision, and what its potential larger impact could be.
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