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Manatee County Will Ask For Ashley Moody's Opinion On An Abortion Ban

Cathy Carter
WUSF Public Media

County Commissioners made several arguments for and against sending the letter to Attorney General Ashley Moody while protestors rallied outside the county’s Administrative Center.

The Manatee County Commission has voted 4 -3 in favor of requesting legal advice from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody on whether the county can adopt a local abortion ban.

The item was placed on the agenda less than 24 hours before Tuesday's meeting. Still, it drew dozens of protestors both inside and outside of the commission chambers.

Commissioner James Satcher first brought up the possibility of a ban in June after Texas passed a law banning abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy.

In a letter to Moody, Satcher wrote that the majority of commissioners want to establish Manatee County as a “Safe Haven" for developing children who are inside their mother’s womb.

"I think that sometimes we might need a mindset change," Satcher said. "Maybe we're not doing people a favor by emphasizing so strongly that this is an option that we want you to take.”

During Tuesday's meeting, Commissioner Misty Servia said she is personally opposed to abortion but voted against sending the letter.

"I am not someone who believes abortion is wonderful but I want to follow the law,” she said. “I want to know what we can and can't do and I remind everyone that the Supreme Court of the United States of America is about to opine on this issue so my question is why are we jumping ahead of all of that."

A group of protestors, some dressed in red hoods and white hair bonnets, inspired by the TV series "Handmaid's Tale," sat in the commission chambers.

The organization "Women's Voices of Southwest Florida" said one of their members was arrested outside the meeting.

Manatee County currently does not have any abortion clinics, but Satcher says his ordinance will make sure it stays that way.

County Attorney Bill Clague urged Commissioners to get an opinion from Moody.

“Before you have these policy debates, you have to make sure you have the authority to do what you want to do,” he said.

Commissioners George Kruse, Satcher, Kevin Van Ostenbridge and Vanessa Baugh voted in favor of the letter, while Commissioners Reggie Bellamy, Misty Servia and Carol Whitmore voted against it.

It remains unclear when or even if Moody will respond.

Several lawmakers in the Florida Legislature have announced they plan to bring up a statewide abortion law during the next legislative session.

As a reporter, my goal is to tell a story that moves you in some way. To me, the best way to do that begins with listening. Talking to people about their lives and the issues they care about is my favorite part of the job.
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