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Abortion rights activists prepare to fight a Texas-style abortion proposal in Florida

Two people hold signs, one picturing a coathanger, during a protest at the capitol on an abortion ban proposal
Craig Moore
WFSU Public Media
Jessie and Sean Betts-Bono stand together in support of women's rights at the Florida Capitol.

Abortion rights advocates across the country are rallying to fight state efforts that mirror Texas, where abortions after six weeks have effectively been rendered illegal after a U.S. Supreme Court decision allowed a law that allows private citizens to sue anyone who helps a person have an abortion, was allowed to go into effect.

The Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates held a rally outside Florida’s Capitol Tuesday. About 200 supporters, reproductive justice champions, and legislators showed up to speak out against the proposal. The Alliance’s Executive Director Laura Goodhue says they were prepared for the bill.

“We saw that Senate President Wilson Simpson, as well as the house speaker [Chris Sprowls], were looking at filing this before the session even began. In the midst of a public health pandemic this seems to be their priority to distract the people of Florida from the real issues,” said Laura Goodhue, VICE President of Public Policy at Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida.

Days after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling, Florida state Rep. Webster Barnaby filed a Texas-style abortion bill for the legislature to consider.

“Furthermore, it has that Texas language that we have seen shut down almost all of the providers there because it basically deputizes private citizens to sue individuals if they access abortion care or the providers or anyone who assists them in accessing that healthcare,” Goodhue said of Barnaby’s bill.

The proposal would ban abortion after the detection of a fetal heartbeat. This often occurs at about six weeks. Goodhue says it's a point at which most women don’t even know they’re pregnant.

“That is outrageous it bans abortion before a person even knows they’re pregnant setting us back 50 years of constitutional rights to bodily autonomy.”

Texas’s abortion ban was the first of its kind. Usually, when states file unconstitutional abortion bills the courts recognize the precedent of Roe v Wade. Texas’s law took the issue of abortion away from the courts. It and the proposal filed in Florida states that any private citizen can sue for a minimum of $10,000 per abortion a provider or anyone that aids or abets a person seeking an abortion.

“It could be a ride-sharing service that takes a person to a health center, it could be a partner, an abusive partner a family an extended family member, or anyone out of state could actually sue the person who has provided the abortion. This is putting politicians in between doctors and their patients.”

Florida's constitution guarantees a right to privacy, and in the past, that language
has been used by abortion rights advocates to block some abortion-restriction bills approved by the Florida legislature. Advocates worry with a new, conservative-leaning Florida Supreme Court, and a bill that puts enforcement in the hands of private citizens, those state constitutional protections may not be enough.

Chelsea Long is an intern this fall with WFSU News. This past summer, she studied journalism at the University of California, Berkeley. She’s currently a senior at Florida State University studying political science and Middle Eastern studies and a staff writer for the student paper, the FSView and Florida Flambeau. She hopes to pursue a career in journalism after graduation, but, for now, she’ll continue working as a part-time barista.