HB 1047 hit the Governor’s desk this morning, which means that Rick Scott has 15 days to either sign or veto it (or if he does nothing the bill becomes law anyway). For those of you who are not up-to-date on the politics of the uterus, HB 1047 made headlines by redefining the term ‘viability’ and stripping some exceptions within the state’s third trimester abortion ban. Effectively, if a doctor deems the fetus ‘viable’, the woman has to carry the baby to term unless she can get two other doctors to say that her life is in danger. Ultimately, this is aimed at severely limiting abortions after 20 weeks. All signs indicate that Governor Scott will sign the bill despite the fact that five House Republicans voted against the legislation.
Usually during an election year, it is a bad idea to pass something this controversial because a candidate automatically alienates about half of voters with a law such as this. This is simply always been considered a bad political move. This is why Charlie Crist, even though he claimed to be pro-life at the time, vetoed the ultrasound bill in 2010. Just 4 years ago, an attack on choice was enough of a threat to make the governor wield the veto pen (although it should be noted Crist became an independent just days later). In just one term, all of that political capital has faded and the loss of the pro-choice vote does not seem to be a concern of Governor Scott. Not only has the Governor already taken strong anti-abortion stances, but this one comes as his poll numbers against Crist continue to climb (see Kartik’s post here).
Now Governor Scott and the legislature is glowing with pride and racking in the conservative praise going into the fall election. Check out all the bragging about protecting those cute little fetuses:
“This bill simply extends to an unborn child the same rights and protections that the woman who is carrying the child is also provided,” said Rep. Marti Coley, (R-Marianna)
“Every developing life deserves this, but certainly we can agree as a civilized society that a viable life deserves a chance,” said Rep. Marlene O’Toole, R-Lady Lake.
“This bill has nothing to do with any war on anyone, woman or anyone else. It has to do with the defense of an unborn child,” said Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights.
Clearly, Governor Scott is not afraid of the pro-choice woman. The Legislature is not afraid of the pro-choice woman – there were 23 co-sponsors in the house, which shows that not only were they not afraid to vote for the bill, but they were willing to put their name on it. Until the fear returns, woman’s rights in the state of Florida are going to continue to be under attack. Why are they not afraid? Because women refuse to hold these individual lawmakers accountable. Sure, Planned Parenthood and the National Women’s Political Caucus of Florida sent out action alert emails. NOW sent out notices to contact the Governor. Ruth’s List put out a press release. It is not like these groups did not try to mobilize. The problem is that there are not enough women paying attention and these groups lack the organization and rapid response networks to be truly effective. Women continue to lose political capital because they merely give it up. Based on what we saw this year, nobody cares about woman’s issues in this state enough to throw down and march anymore. Where are the protests? Where are the sit-ins? Where is the anger? Where is the outrage? Where is the viable pro-choice women activist movement?
The root of the problem is that conservatives love to attack abortion because it is just so easy to gain favor. Why is an abortion such an easy source of political conservative capital? For starters, it does not add to the budget. Although denying access to care does impact the expenditures, it does so in such a manner that elected officials cannot be held accountable. As long as the fetus is saved, nobody seems to notice what happens after the baby is born. When these unaborted fetuses want healthcare, the state does not have money for that. When these children want a quality public education, the legislature replies that all of that money is going to for-profit charter schools or various for-profit voucher schemes. When teachers and parents say that the state needs to invest in better early childhood education, Republicans simply bring children out as props.
And nobody holds them accountable.
The Florida Legislature has been ignoring woman’s issue for a long time. Not just a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decisions, but also child-care funding, social services, the entire Department of Children and Families, education, and general healthcare. Real issues that effect real, live children everyday. It is time that these politicians are held accountable to what kind of life they are giving these children.
If women are going to change the political dynamics of the abortion debate in the state of Florida, they have to make politicians afraid again. There are pockets of hope – today Planned Parenthood announced that their political action committee was getting involved in the Florida fall elections (read more about that here). And there are women’s groups around – they just have to step up and go on the offensive and education other women. I do not want to diminish what women’s groups in the state of Florida have done, but the bottom line is that it is not enough. Where are scorecards for legislators on women’s issues? Where are pro-choice women running for office to challenge these guys? Women have to threaten these politicians with a vote against them and then they have to make good on those threats.
So, start now. Contact Governor Scott and put some fear into him. Or at at least let him know you are alive and breathing and that he should rethink signing HB 1047.
Office of Governor Rick Scott