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Abortion bill is on its way to the governor's desk without exemptions for rape, incest or human trafficking

Lauren book turns toward the camera on the Senate floor. Her long blonde hair is curled and she wears a dark navy jacket. Others, including Senator Darryl Rouson can be seen behind her.
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
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FR121174 AP
Florida Sen. Lauren Book, center, and Florida Sen. Darryl Rouson, right, mingle during a legislative session, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

A bill to ban most abortions after 15 weeks is on its way to the governor’s desk. Senators voted 23-to-15 in favor of the measure late Thursday night after considering more than a dozen proposed amendments Wednesday.

Debate grew emotional as lawmakers shared personal stories. Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation) is well known for speaking out for survivors of sexual abuse. She continued that advocacy on the Senate floor when she once again filed an amendment that would allow people who become pregnant through rape, incest, or human trafficking to receive abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

Book says no exemptions for rape, incest and human trafficking means putting a timeline of a survivor's healing.

“This amendment is one I have filed before because while I believe all women have a right to choose, there is one group of women and girls who I am specifically advocating for today,” Book said. “This particular group has already had their rights taken, already had their body autonomy violated, had no choice in becoming pregnant.”

Book, who is a survivor of childhood sexual abuse said she’s tired of being known as the Senate’s sexual assault survivor, but she said as bills like the 15-week abortion ban come up, she feels called to talk about her experience. During a speech on the Senate floor, Book shared more about her story than she’s ever shared publicly in the past. She said it often takes children who are being abused years to tell somebody. She doesn’t think it’s fair to put a timeline on a young girl who becomes pregnant as a result of rape.

“I have heard some of the back and forth on this issue. I have heard, ‘but they have 15 weeks. That’s enough time for you to realize that you’re pregnant and make a decision.’ You know what I was doing after I finally disclosed my abuse after 15 weeks? Taping newspapers to every single window of my house with my dad and my mom and my sister and my brother because I somehow believed that the rapist could look in my house,” Book said as her voice broke with emotion.

Stargel says her passion for the subject stems from personal experience.

Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) is carrying the 15-week abortion ban measure in the Senate. After Book spoke, Stargel said she applauds Book’s courage for sharing her experience. But Stargel said she doesn’t believe creating an exemption for rape, incest and human trafficking will stop those things from happening. She does worry it would open the door for false reports of rape.

“I fear for the men who are going to be accused of a rape so the woman can have an abortion because that’s her only way out. I worry about that as well. You’re going to have people who are going to be needlessly accused. The woman is going to say she was raped so she can have the abortion,” Stargel said.

Stargel went on to say she doesn’t think that’s something all women, or most women would do, but she does think its something a desperate woman might do. A paper by the National Sexual Violence Resource Center says studies indicate between 2 and 10 percent of sexual assault reports are found to be false. But the paper goes on to say those numbers are likely inflated by inconsistent definitions and protocols, and under reporting.

For Stargel abortion is a personal subject. She became pregnant as a teenager and decided to give birth to her daughter.

“When I got pregnant at 17 and I went to planned parenthood, they said I would never be anything. So we can all stand here and cry on the floor with our stories,” Stargel said.

Stargel grew visibly emotional while talking about her experience and how proud she is of her daughter today.

Book’s amendment failed along with the 11 other amendments Democrats filed. As she closed on her amendment, Book said she wished sharing her story could have a bigger impact.

“I wish it mattered. I wish me telling my story and the reality of it mattered," she said.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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