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Florida Democrats Push to Protect Women from Prosecution over Abortion

Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book filed a bill to prevent pregnant women, girls, and sexual assault survivors from being criminally charged and imprisoned for obtaining abortion healthcare, following remarks Governor Ron DeSantis made claiming felony penalties in Florida’s abortion ban only criminalize doctors, not patients.

The Democrat noted that Republican Governor DeSantis claimed felony criminal penalties only apply to healthcare providers, not women, saying: “We have no criminal penalties, the penalties are for the physician…that is for the providers, it’s not for the women.” Leader Book’s “glitch bill” legislation capitalizes on the Governor’s interpretation of what Democrats call a “cruel and dangerous ban” by clarifying and correcting Florida law to shield women from being criminalized, facing prosecution or being jailed over abortion.

“The imprisonment of women, girls, sexual assault survivors, and their doctors through dangerous abortion bans is cruel and anti-freedom,” said Leader Lauren Book, who was arrested earlier this year while peacefully protesting the bans. “The Governor has said ‘that will not happen in Florida’ – but we’re not just going to take his word for it, we’re fighting to ensure it.”

Florida’s abortion ban, as contained in statute, clearly states: “Any person who willfully performs, or actively participates in, a termination of pregnancy in violation requirements of this section or s. 390.01112 commits a felony of the third degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.” Democratic members of the Florida Legislature have argued the cruelty and danger of jailing women and doctors since bans were introduced. Book’s new bill clarifies women cannot be criminally charged for obtaining abortions.

“The abortion bill Ron signed into law last year is written so broadly that women could be held criminally liable for seeking abortions in Florida — Leader Book’s bill will fix that,” said Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried. “When it comes to promising that women won’t be prosecuted under Ron’s extreme abortion ban, the only thing that matters is the language used in statute — which will be interpreted by courts that he helped stack with extremist Federalist Society justices. If Ron is serious about protecting women from the unintended consequences of his actions, he should vocally support this clarifying language and join us in urging the Florida Legislature to send this bill to his desk during the 2024 legislative session.”

Since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, the effects of dangerous state-level abortion bans are being seen across Florida and throughout the country. Women who miscarry are being denied care and sent home with sepsis – including two women from Leader Book’s district, IVF mothers whose stories she told on the Senate Floor – mothers are denied compassionate abortion care, despite fatal fetal abnormalities, and babies are left to die painfully just a few short minutes after birth – child sexual assault victims are being denied wanted abortions – and more. Florida Democrats plan to make abortion a top issue in upcoming elections.

Leader Book was in the Florida Supreme Court as the Justices heard oral arguments in a case challenging the legality of Florida’s 15-week abortion ban based on the state’s constitutional privacy protections. If the court upholds the ban, 30 days later, a 6-week ban will go into effect – essentially banning abortion completely in the state of Florida.

“This case comes down to one thing: protecting Floridians’ constitutional right to privacy – and the decision will be Florida’s own Roe v. Wade,” Leader Book posted. “If this Court agrees to reverse precedent, the safety of women, girls, and sexual assault survivors throughout Florida and the Southeast will be imperiled, because – as people across the political spectrum agree – abortion is absolutely healthcare.”

Advocates from Floridians Protecting Freedom, including Leader Book and the Reproductive Freedom Collective of Broward – are fighting to put abortion on the ballot in 2024 to give voters the power to protect abortion rights until viability. The group has gathered more than 700,000 signed petitions – more than half of the nearly 1 million needed. Florida Democrats intend to put abortion on the ballot and continue collecting petitions.

“This decision belongs with the people, and that’s why we’re fighting to put abortion on the ballot in 2024,” the Senate Democratic Leader said. “We’ve seen the dangerous impact of abortion bans here and across the country. We must regain the rights stolen from us.”

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