Vice President Kamala Harris condemns GOP plan to restrict abortion access in Florida

'This issue is about women's autonomy,' Harris says
Posted at 7:00 PM, Mar 13, 2023
and last updated 2023-03-14 02:28:54-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Vice President Kamala Harris on Monday condemned a plan to cut Florida's abortion access in the state Legislature this year.

In a call with reporters, Harris said the bills, which are seeking to take Florida from 15 to six weeks, were "extreme" and "dangerous."

"This issue is about women's autonomy," Harris said. "Their freedom to decide whether and when to have children."

Harris noted six weeks is before many women know they are pregnant, though it's roughly the time physicians can detect cardiac activity.

The Democrat also believed a shift in Florida law would have impacts beyond its approximately four million women of reproductive age. Harris said many nearby consider the Sunshine State a refuge among neighbors like Georgia, Alabama and Texas, which have stricter abortion policies.

"Think about the geography," Harris said. "Notably, more than three-quarters of the women living under abortion bans in the United States live in the South. For many, Florida is their closest option for care. A six-week ban would function as a regional ban, wiping out access to care in the South."

Before concluding her call, the vice president doubled down on a pledge she made in Tallahassee in January to protect abortion access across the country and spur action on the federal level through Congress. But with power divided in Washington, and the GOP firmly in control of Florida, the battle may be waged in the court of public opinion, which some Florida Democrats believe they'll win.

"If abortion wasn't going to be an issue during the 2024 election," House Minority Leader Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa, said. "Ron DeSantis has certainly made it one now."

Even so, Republicans seem more aligned on the issue than in recent months.

Bills in the state House and Senate have exceptions for rape, incest and fatal fetal conditions — a sticking point for Sen. President Kathleen Passidomo, R-Naples, who announced her support of the legislation last week.

"Sen. [Erin] Grall had the idea for the bill that she was going to file," Passidomo said. "She came to me, and I said, 'If you do file it, that's your choice. That's your right. I would just ask you to include an exception for rape and incest.' That's my No. 1 priority."

Gov. Ron DeSantis has also sounded supportive of the bill. When asked about it last Tuesday, the fellow Republican said he welcomes "pro-life legislation.”

But support from the legislature and governor still might not be enough to make the bill a reality. The six-week ban's ultimate fate will likely be up to the Florida Supreme Court. Justices are set to consider the current 15-week ban in the coming months, and if they strike it down over concerns about Florida's broad privacy protections, six weeks is out as well.