By Diane Roberts
OCCUPIED TALLAHASSEE – Babies! Here in Florida, we love us some babies.
Unless they’re already born.
Then the little buggers become a bit of a problem, especially the nearly one in five who live in poverty and expect frills such as food, medical care, and a decent education.
But the Republican Herrenvolk of the Legislature don’t care about that part: They just want to make sure those feckless women who up and get pregnant can’t get an abortion after 15 weeks.
Even if they’re trafficked.
Even if they’re victims of incest.
Even if they’re raped.
Rep. David Borrero, mansplaining like a champ, claimed during the abortion bill’s first committee stop that 15 week-old fetuses can hear and “feel pain.”
This is, of course, only true in the fact-challenged alternate world of Florida Republicans.
Here on Planet Earth, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists says human fetuses do not have the “neural circuitry” to feel pain until around 24 weeks.
Nevertheless, the majority persists in their ignorance.
These are the same people, remember, cheerfully voting the governor’s pet quack into the important position of state surgeon general.
This would be Joseph Ladapo, who refuses to say whether he’s vaccinated, refused to wear a mask around a senator suffering from cancer, has recently been trashed by his own former supervisor at UCLA’s medical school, and makes common cause with an outfit called “America’s Frontline Doctors,” whose members include Jan. 6 rioters, a woman who thinks “demon sperm” causes illness, and an ivermectin hustler who lost her medical license in Alabama but remains legal to practice in Florida.
Obviously, he’s perfect for a job in the DeSantis administration.
The petty tyrants of the Florida Legislature talk like they’re actually doing pregnant women a favor: After all, they briefly considered pushing a Texas-style six-week bill where people rat each other out, but chose this more “moderate” measure.
It’s possible restricting abortion rights could be politically dangerous. Most Americans — 59 percent — support a woman’s right to an abortion in all or most cases, and it could be that anti-choice laws might rile Florida voters.
Republicans are betting it won’t matter.
One of the representatives who helped craft the legislation insisted Republicans’ motives are unimpeachable: “It has absolutely nothing to do with an election year,” said Rep. Colleen Burton.
Oh, of course not. Silly us. As we know, Florida’s ruling party is driven by the purest of reasons, passing laws that promote our freedom to die of COVID-19, our freedom to remain ignorant of America’s history, our freedom to avoid books that make us feel “uncomfortable,” and our freedom to suppress the votes of people who don’t support Republicans.
Now they’re extending this Republican altruism to abortion access to preserve the state’s right to ignore what women want, because women can’t be trusted to make the right decision.
One legislator actually said Florida’s 15 weeks is “generous.”
So be grateful, uterus-bearing Floridians!
These magnanimous Republicans will allow women and girls to have control over their own bodies until the fetus inside them gets to be about the size of an apple.
After that, ladies, you’re nothing but a “host body,” as former Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva famously said.
You want to terminate that pregnancy? Better get a move on.
Now it’s true that most abortions are performed during first trimester. But that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
Or that those women don’t matter.
If you don’t have transportation or childcare or can’t get off work to go see a doctor until you’re a little too pregnant or if having a kid will crash your dreams of going to college or leave you financially devastated, too bad.
Now, if the baby shows a “fatal fetal abnormality” or presents “a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function other than a psychological condition,” maybe you can get an abortion.
If two doctors say so, that is.
But if forced birth might harm your “psychological condition” — and the science shows it often does — you’re screwed.
Sen. Kelli Stargel, one of the sponsors of the 15-week bill, insists, “We’re not being mean.”
No, it’s not “mean” to force a 15 year-old girl, who may not even realize she’s pregnant ’til it’s too late (more common than you think) to give birth to a baby she doesn’t want.
It’s not “mean” to force continued pregnancy on a minimum wage worker struggling to scrape up enough money to get to a clinic and pay for an abortion only to find she’s a week past this arbitrary cut-off date.
Stargel (whose husband is the appeals court judge who tried to stop a high school junior from getting an abortion on the ground she can’t spell and uses “poor grammar”) and bill co-sponsor Rep. Erin Grall know that the U.S. Supreme Court is likely to make their bill moot. With the Supremes’ Party of Jacob majority, Roe will almost certainly be destroyed or mortally wounded.
Meanwhile, Stargel, Grall, and their enablers in the Republican leadership can carry on pretending to care about children and women.
“My sister had an abortion when she was 20 years old. I love her, and I’m here doing this because I honor her,” testified Grall, wiping away reptilian tears. “We should honor people who have made this terrible decision because our government-sanctioned it.”
Yes, honor them by taking away their autonomy and denying them control over their own bodies.
Honor women by taking away their rights.
Only in dystopian Florida does this make any kind of sense.
Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books.