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Wednesday, December 01, 2021

Florida lawmakers to hear Texas-style heartbeat abortion law, Gainesville residents express mixed views

The Florida Heartbeat Act was filed only 22 days after the Texas Heartbeat Act took effect

Protestors gather at the corner of West University Avenue and Southwest 13th Street before marching to Cora P. Roberson Park on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.
Protestors gather at the corner of West University Avenue and Southwest 13th Street before marching to Cora P. Roberson Park on Saturday, Oct. 2, 2021.

Texas’ abortion bill has made its way to the Florida legislature, reigniting a decades-old debate. 

Florida state representative Webster Barnaby filed the Florida Heartbeat Act bill Sept. 22 — less than a month after Texas’ bill went into effect Sept. 1 making abortion illegal after a fetus’ heartbeat is detected. 

In Texas, at least $10,000 can be granted to anyone who sues a person involved in helping a woman get an abortion past the six-week mark — except for pregnant women themselves. 

Similarly, in Florida’s bill, abortion would be allowed until detection of a fetal heartbeat, which generally happens about six weeks into a pregnancy. With proper documentation, exceptions are available for victims of rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking.

On Oct. 2, more than 300 marched to Cora P. Roberson Park to oppose the legislation. Florida politicians like House of Representatives Democratic candidate Danielle Hawk and Alachua County Commissioner Anna Prizzia attended the protest, showing they also oppose the Florida Heartbeat Act.

Kai Christmas, a 24-year-old Gainesville resident, organized another protest Sept. 9 outside Sira, a crisis pregnancy center located at 912 NW 13th St. — just outside of Gainesville’s Planned Parenthood. Crisis pregnancy centers are intended to dissuade women from getting abortions, often misleading women who intended to go to the abortion center next door. 

“They do everything to get you into the door,” Christmas said. “These are places that prey on pregnant people’s vulnerabilities.”

Christmas started organizing the protest a day after the Texas Heartbeat Act was put into place. The Texas abortion law poses a large threat to women around the nation, as many travel to Florida to seek abortions, they said. 

They said they want to see easier access to abortions in Florida and wishes for the 24-hour waiting period requirement to be terminated.

“It [Texas bill] empowers vigilante bounty hunters, and it incentivizes people to harass and surveil others,” Christmas said. “It’s truly unprecedented.”  

Rep. Yvonne Hayes Hinson, who represents parts of Alachua County in the Florida House, said she believes the bill was filed to challenge Roe v. Wade and appease state Republicans. 

She said this isn’t the first time in recent history that state lawmakers tried to unjustly impose restrictions on abortions. Florida’s current law bans abortions after 24 weeks into pregnancy, right before the beginning of the third trimester, with an exception being an emergency.  

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“When has anyone ever legislated the male body like they attempt to legislate the female body?” she said.

Others don’t see eye-to-eye with pro-choice activists.

Mark Harrington, the president of the anti-abortion organization Created Equal, is in favor of the act and believes it, and similar bills across the country, is a start to overturn Roe v. Wade. Created Equal supports the Texas and Florida heartbeat acts, as it travels across the country to college campuses to engage in conversation and conduct debates over abortion.

“Everybody agrees that if there’s heartbeat there’s life,” Harrington said. “If we can protect the unborn and the detectable heartbeats then we’re detecting human life.”

The U.S. Constitution is the supreme law of the land and overrides Florida’s right to privacy, Harrington said. Victims of rape, incest and domestic violence shouldn’t be exempt from the heartbeat acts, he said. He wants abortion to be abolished completely.

“We don't have the right to kill them,” Harrington said. “The right to privacy doesn't extend to a mother killing their offspring.”

Turning Point USA UF President Abigail Streetman, 20, is also in support of the act. 

Incremental change on Florida’s current abortion law is necessary, and this act is the best solution, Streetman said. 

“When you make the decision to sleep with somebody, you should know that every single time you make that decision you’re taking the risk of getting pregnant,” she said. 

The unborn have the right to bodily autonomy, so it doesn’t invade a woman’s right to privacy, Streetman said. 

On the other hand, Lauren Goodhue, the 48-year-old executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, is baffled by the Florida bill.

“They've [young women] never known a life where they didn't have the right to bodily autonomy and to decide whether and when to parent for themselves,” Goodhue said. 

Two similar events were held on the same day as the Sept. 9 Gainesville protest in Tallahassee and Miami, Goodhue said. There were also 650 protests across the country in support of reproductive rights Oct. 2. 

“People are ready,” she said. “They’re really mad about the actions of our state.”

Contact Faith Buckley at fbuckley@alligator.org. Follow her Twitter @_faithbuckley

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Faith Buckley

Faith Buckley is a first-year journalism student at UF and The Alligator's swimming and diving beat writer. She is specializing in sports media to one day hopefully work as an NHL commentator.


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