On abortion, “No vote about women without women,” Florida Democratic lawmaker pledges

State Sen. Lauren Book, a South Florida Democrat. Florida Channel screenshot

With the Alabama Legislature passing what is being called America’s most restrictive abortion ban, Florida Democratic state senator Lauren Book says she will draft a bill to ensure that the Florida Legislature doesn’t go down the same path when it reconvenes next year.

Her plan: a state Constitutional amendment saying that any vote on abortion can’t take place unless there’s an equal representation of men and women lawmakers present. 

“No vote about women without women – it’s that simple,” Book told the Phoenix. “I want to give Florida voters the power to require 50 percent representation in both legislative bodies to take up anything related to women’s reproductive health care by proposing a joint resolution to seek a Constitutional amendment. There are no laws in existence that regulate men’s bodies. Women must have a voice and a choice.” 

Only three women voted in the Alabama Senate on the bill Tuesday night, and they all opposed it. Twenty-five men voted to support it.

Book issued a searing statement on Wednesday about the legislation that would make it a crime for doctors to perform abortions at any stage of a pregnancy, unless a woman’s life is threatened or in case of a lethal fetal anomaly. The bill was signed later on Wednesday by Republican Gov. Kay Ivey.

Under the measure, doctors would face felony jail time up to 99 years if convicted. A woman would not be held criminally liable.

There are no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

Book, from Broward County, is a victim of childhood sexual abuse, and she says it’s particularly troubling that the legislation would force victims of rape and incest to carry a pregnancy to term.

“As a rape survivor, I would not wish that trauma on my worst enemy,” she said in a statement.

“The right to comprehensive, safe and legal family planning is under attack and the stakes are high: women’s self-determination over her body, medical decisions, and autonomy over her LIFE,” Book said. “Florida women – regardless of political affiliation – we must raise our voices against these archaic, dangerous policies. I vow to stand up to fight and defend the right to choose in the Florida Senate.”

Laura Goodhue, Executive Director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, says the Alabama vote is energizing women to defend their right to choose to end a pregnancy.

“If this bill becomes law, women’s lives will be in jeopardy,” Goodhue said. “It is bad enough to ban abortion. Threatening doctors with life in prison for treating women is mean-spirited and unthinkable. In the coming days we will be in the fight of our lives — engaging our strong base of supporters to ensure abortion remains safe and legal. We will never stop fighting to ensure women are free to make their own decisions about their bodies and access the care they need.”

While no state has gone as far as Alabama in restricting abortions, states like Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi and Ohio have recently approved so-called fetal heartbeat bills, which essentially ban abortions starting at six weeks after conception, a time when many women are unaware that they are pregnant. The American Civil Liberties Union announced this week that the group will legally challenge the Ohio bill.

Florida state Rep. Mike Hill, a Republican from Pensacola, proposed a fetal heartbeat bill in the Florida House this spring, but it never received a committee hearing. The only abortion-related bill that advanced in Florida this spring was a measure that would have required a teenager to get parental consent to get an abortion.

It was sponsored by Rep. Erin Grall, a Vero Beach Republican.

Pro-choice and anti-abortion activists converged on the Capitol when the bill was given a hearing (and passed) in one Senate committee hearing last month. The bill never advanced further.

Book was elected to the Senate in 2016. She is also the founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids, which educates adults and children about sexual abuse prevention.

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, a Democrat from Orange County and a former staffer with Planned Parenthood, released a statement immediately after the Alabama Senate’s vote on Tuesday night.

“The south has become ground-zero for anti-abortion legislation, with Georgia’s Governor signing a six-week abortion ban into law and now Alabama on the verge of signing a bill that would ban nearly all abortions,” she said. “We stand in bold opposition to these laws, certain that they will fail when their constitutionality is tested, and prepared to continue our fight in protecting safe and legal access to abortion in Florida.”

Bills seeking six-week abortion bans are also being debated right now in Louisiana and Missouri, the New York Times reports.

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