There were many arguments presented on the house floor to show the multiple flaws in bill HB633, which would mandate a 24 hour waiting period before an abortion could be performed. The heated controversy created headlines and political fodder as the classic debate between woman’s rights advocacy groups and anti-abortion factions played out. This bill has now passed both legislative houses and is headed to the Governor’s desk, with Alachua County Senator Bradley and Representative Perry voting in favor.
However, while the debate raged on, there was little mention of how this bill will effect already marginalized sectors of our society. Considering the controversy over Medicaid expansion in Tallahassee this session, this bill shows that the Florida Legislature continues to ignore the connection between access to healthcare and abortion.
Senator Flores and Representative Sullivan, the sponsors of the bill, continually presented a woman who has the means and the privilege to wait 24 for hours. There has to be some recognition that this is a small minority of people seeking abortion care.
For a woman who already has children, that is an additional day to hire a babysitter or arrange care for other family members. For primary caregivers, this is an undue burden and an unnecessary obstacle with no apparent benefit.
For the working woman – which is the largest percent of women seeking abortion care – it is another day off work that perhaps they cannot afford. This bill offers no protections for lost wages. This bill does not require employers to allow an additional day off work for workers who are not any allowed sick time. Considering that economic reasons are the number one reason women cite for abortions, it follows that many of the women seeking abortion care are already struggling financially. Therefore, another day of missed work or additional travel could mean a job loss to this already struggling individual. The costs of 24 hours are not addressed in this bill.
For a transgendered individual, this means another day of fighting to get care and treatment from a healthcare system that does not recognize genders outside the binary. For transgendered individuals that are able to get pregnant, this could mean another day of revealing information that could lead to physical violence for this already at-risk marginalized group.
For a rape victim, it means means one more day until the physical pieces of your rapist remain in your body. Of course, in complete disregard of the realities of rape victims and the barriers they already face, the legislature did create an amendment to wave the 24 waiting period if a woman can ‘prove’ she is raped, putting the burden of proof on the victim in an inexcusable manner.
For a woman who is the victim of domestic violence, many times an abortion means sneaking out of the house for an appointment. This bill, presented by a legislative body who continues to ignore intimate partner crime, offers no protections or assistance for a woman who could be at physical risk for trying to access abortion care.
For women with a wanted pregnancy but faces the discovery of insurmountable health risks to the mother or the child, this bill leads to unnecessary hurdles in an already heartbreaking situation. It is 24 more hours until healing can begin and, much like the ultrasound bill, forces them through additional governmental hurdles in a midst of an emotionally heart-wrenching affair.
In short, this bill simply has too many negative outcomes to justify it’s passage. The need of this bill is negligible, as there is not a shred of evidence that women are denied 24 hours under current healthcare practices. Senator Flores also continuously mentions women who are unaware of the policy and procedures of an abortion and may need 24 more hours to make an informed decision. Of course, the reason that so many women are unaware of the options and side-effects of abortion is because comprehensive sex education is not readily available. Instead, our public schools rely on abstinence education which concentrates on the evils of sex rather than the biological information needed to educate all young adults on their own sexual health. Given that this is the primary reason Senator Flores has given for this bill, perhaps she should consider a bill that directly impacts the problem she is presenting, instead of this mere distraction.
We know what causes abortion rates to go down: comprehensive sex education and access to healthcare. This piece of legislation ignores real solutions to the that problems that Senator Flores mentions. Expanding healthcare would give more choices to women and more support should they choose to have a child.
To conclude, this bill unequally affects the poor and the already marginalized sectors of our society in an ill-thought out religious crusade. It is an irresponsible piece of legislation.
Please contact the Governor’s office and urge him to veto this bill and also urge him to support the expansion of Medicaid for all Floridians.