Several concerned citizens made their voices heard Friday after a state senator from Miami-Dade County voiced her support of a controversial bill that would ban abortions in Florida after 15 weeks.
The group protested Friday in front of the Coral Gables office of State Sen. Ileana Garcia, a Republican who represents Florida's 37th District.
“We are here to bring attention to the senator's recent vile comments about a woman’s reproductive freedom and the utter disregard she has shown for the victims of rape, incest and sex trafficking," said Mary Ann Ruiz, one of the constituents who attended the protest.
During a recent interview with local media, Garcia said she supports the bill that was filed on the first day of the state's annual legislative session last week.
“She believes that women who have faced the unimaginable," Ruiz said. "Women who have endured and survived the most traumatizing moments of their lives should be reached should be re-traumatized again.”
Garcia added she believes if a woman is raped or the pregnancy was the result of incest, the mother should carry to term.
"Senator Garcia‘s 15-week abortion ban is targeted at those of us who can’t afford the premium on a basic health procedure protected by our constitution," said Ivanna Gonzalez, another constituent at the protest.
Garcia's office issued a statement, saying, “It’s a badge of honor to protect the sanctity of life. Pro-life is pre born, foster care, adoptions, elder care, special needs, supporting soon-to-be mothers and fathers, families and foster care youth aging out. This has been and continues to be my work for the last year since elected as State Senator for District 37.”
The measures by Sen. Kelli Stargel and Rep. Erin Grall are similar to a Mississippi law currently under challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court.
It does not go as far, however, as a Texas law banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy with enforcement provisions allowing citizens to sue abortion providers and anyone who assists in an abortion after a fetal heartbeat is detected.
The Florida legislation drew a quick endorsement from House Speaker Chris Sprowls, who said in a statement that House Republicans are “steadfast in our commitment to Florida’s children, both born and unborn.”
Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is up for re-election this year, told reporters he would likely be in favor as well.
The bills have no exceptions for rape and incest but they do say an abortion outside the proposed 15-week limit would be allowed if necessary to save the mother’s life, prevent a mother's serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. Florida currently allows abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
"We will continue to fight vociferously for a woman’s right to choose and right to health care,” Senate Democratic leader Lauren Book said.
"We will fight tooth and nail over that bill,” added Rep. Evan Jenne, the House minority leader.
These latest abortion bills will join others that could be considered in committees during the 60-day legislative session that began Tuesday. Senate President Wilton Simpson said he is optimistic the 15-week bill can pass.
“I think it’s a very good start and I think it’s something the committee process will vet out and perhaps be on the floor at some point,” said Simpson, who was adopted as a young child. “I've been pro-life all of my life.”
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