House OKs abortion ban bill despite protests

Protesters stand outside the Florida Capitol. Photo courtesy: Tallahassee Democrat

A seven-hour protest to fight the 15-week abortion ban took place from 2:30-9:30 p.m. Wednesday. Protesters stood outside the Capitol building in opposition to the House of Representatives’ mostly party-line vote to approve the measure, House Bill 5, which would not allow doctors in Florida to perform abortions after 15 weeks.

With similar legislation pending in the Florida Senate and Gov. Ron DeSantis strongly in favor of the ban, the Republican-dominated Legislature is poised to enact a law that mimics a Mississippi law still standing before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The ban allows for few exceptions, including preventing harm or saving a mother’s life. However, the ban does not exempt rape victims.

Jacob Muldoon, vice president of Florida State University’s Students for a Democratic Society, is one of many who facilitated Wednesday’s protest and helped bring in speakers. Speakers and students from around the country chanted and expressed their opposition to the bill. Muldoon says that protesters tried to give public comment before lawmakers debated the bill, but to no avail.

“We all drove up here about two weeks ago to protest outside of the House hearing and then give public comment,” Muldoon said. “Public comment was limited, and we were eventually thrown out of the House committee, and the House committee actually stopped because they cut off an SDSer and were not allowing any more public comment even though there were probably 30 or 40 people who hadn’t spoken at all.”

Muldoon believes that the way he and others were treated at the hearing showed how little the House committee cared about the public.

Ally Walchak, the Tallahassee regional organizer for Planned Parenthood of South-Eastern North Florida, believes that the bill approved by the House is a direct violation of women’s rights.

“Abortion is healthcare, [the ban], it’s an infringement upon our rights, and it’s unconstitutional,” Walchak said. “What the Florida Legislatures is trying to do is unconstitutional and it’s restrictive of our healthcare rights. It’s really unfortunate that they have to take the time off from school to come up here and do this, but it’s so important that they are doing it. We could not do this without the support of our coalition partners.”

Planned Parenthood stands as a co-sponsor for events put on by different student bodies to raise awareness for issues that coincide with their practices.

The House of Representatives approved HB 5 78-39 before any official decisions had made in the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the Mississippi law.