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Abortion rights supporters say Florida's proposed 15-week ban would hurt the financially vulnerable

Protesters Chanting At The U.S. Supreme Court
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If passed, Floridians would have up to 15 weeks, instead of 25 weeks, to decide to terminate a pregnancy, even in cases of rape and incest.

The U.S. Supreme Court is currently weighing the future of a Mississippi law that inspired the Florida bills.

A measure that would ban abortions in Florida after 15 weeks is quickly advancing through the state legislature.

The proposal has already cleared two House committees and last week, it cleared its first Senate committee. If passed, Floridians would have up to 15 weeks, instead of 25 weeks, to decide to terminate a pregnancy, even in cases of rape and incest.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, and Gov. Ron DeSantis have all said they support the measure.

Health News Florida’s Cathy Carter recently spoke with Kris Lawler of a reproductive rights advocacy group called the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund about the proposal.

Who do you think will be most affected if this bill becomes law?

I think it will have an impact on a lot of people. I've seen a lot of statistics going around about the percentage of people who may be impacted by this but the fact is that 100% of our callers are already facing a barrier. They're reaching out because they have that barrier. And they're asking for assistance with that. Based on our numbers from last year, I would say about 25% of our callers expect to be affected by this new ban that would then limit abortion to an earlier gestation.

Your organization in Tampa Bay is one of a national network that provides financial support for people seeking abortions. What are some of the barriers to access?

Especially since the pandemic, we've seen a lot of our callers express to us loss of job, loss of income or the household earner has lost income. Abortion is not a cheap procedure. It's not a cheap medication. So that is definitely a barrier for a lot of people. We also see a lot of barriers in lack of transportation, lack of childcare, and there's also no easily accessible insurance coverage for abortion. So, it is an expense that is most of the time, something that's out of pocket. Other things that Florida requires is in-person ultrasound, and the client must also receive the state directed counseling that is designed to discourage them from having an abortion. And the parental consent laws in Florida require that a minor must have their parents’ consent or have gone through the judicial bypass process.

Bills to ban or limit abortion access have been before the Florida Legislature for years now and mostly they have not made it out of committee. But in this current legislative session, it's moving through the process very quickly. Is that surprising to you?

It's stunning that it's going through this fast. It is frustrating that it's going through this fast and that it is garnering so much support, especially when the majority of Floridians support abortion access. But realistically, the legislators made it clear that this was something that they wanted to do. So we shouldn't be that surprised. From our callers, they definitely speak about a lot of the frustrations they're facing, especially when speaking with the minors that we've worked with. They have expressed frustrations in the judicial bypass process and the additional barriers that causes for them.

It is looking more likely that this bill will pass and will then be headed to Governor Ron DeSantis to sign and enact. Is your group and similar organizations making plans for that?

Oh, absolutely. We are expecting this to go through. So, we are planning for the worst. We are working with clinics out of state because just because abortion is being restricted here doesn't mean that the need will stop. People will now just have additional barriers. So, they'll have to travel out of state, out of the city, out of the county wherever they can go. And then when you add in those additional things like travel expenses, gas, airfare, hotels, that definitely adds up. But we are working with clinics and abortion funds all over the United States to make sure that we can provide continuity of care for anyone who's seeking an abortion.

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.