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Politics / Issues
Get the latest coverage of the 2022 Florida legislative session in Tallahassee from our coverage partners and WUSF.

A Democratic lawmaker wants abortion legislation exemptions for rape, incest and human trafficking

Florida Sen. Lauren Book looks on during a legislative session, Friday, April 30, 2021, at the Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)
Wilfredo Lee
/
AP
Florida Sen. Lauren Book looks on during a legislative session, Friday, April 30, 2021, at the Capitol in Tallahassee.

Sen. Lauren Book says the measure, as it is written, takes "power and control away from" women.

A Florida lawmaker and childhood sexual abuse survivor is pushing back on a measure that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks. She says without exemptions for rape, incest and human trafficking survivors, the measure puts people who have suffered a serious trauma under the added pressure of a difficult deadline.

Sen. Lauren Book (D-Plantation) has spent much of her adult life fighting against sexual abuse and working to protect survivors. She says the abortion measure moving through the legislature is harmful.

“It’s painful to know and understand that not having an exception like this would put women on the clock and continue to take power and control away from them," Book says. "That’s what their abusers have done—taken power and control and used sex to do that and now the state of Florida, by proxy, is taking away their power and control and not giving them the grace and the time that they need to process whether or not they want to make this decision.”

Book tried to amend the bill during a Senate committee hearing, but after that effort failed, she admits she’s losing hope the measure will change before it becomes law.

“You know, I am an eternal optimist, but I do believe at the end of the day this bill is going to stay largely the way that it is," Book says. "I do believe there are members on each side of the aisle that believe that should be an exemption for rape and incest. We heard the presenter of the bill talk about what a low incidence that is, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not important. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be giving those women the choice of more additional time to make a decision like this.”

Senate bill sponsor Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) says exceptions for pregnancies in circumstances such as rape are not needed because the bill gives everyone the ability to seek an abortion up until 15 weeks of gestation.

“I think a lot of people miss that this is not an all-out ban," Stargel says. "An individual has the ability to make a decision of what they want to do with their pregnancy prior to  the 15 weeks. Many women who have been raped may have chosen to terminate their pregnancy prior to the 15 weeks.”

Doctor Samantha Deans who is an obstetrician and gynecologist says bodily autonomy is essential. She says not everyone has time within those 15 weeks to get the help they need. She gives the example of a 11-year-old patient she treated recently. For this story Deans has changed the girl’s name to Lizzy.

“She was raped by a family member after her very first period. She was too young and too scared to know what happened to her let alone to admit it to anyone else. When her stomach began to show, her mother took her to a physician who diagnosed her with pregnancy at 23 weeks. At the tender age of 11, Lizzy could tell me that she did not want to be pregnant. Luckily her mother supported her through her decision and she had an abortion. If SB 146 was in law today, Lizzy would be forced to continue a pregnancy that was put on her against her will," Deans says.

Deans says that could have resulted in serious physical and emotion complications for Lizzy that would have far ranging impacts into her future.

Stargel says she agrees with Book’s efforts to fight sexual abuse, but she says she believes allowing abortions in those instances doesn’t stop the crime. She says often in the cases of rape and human trafficking perpetrators force their victims to have abortions.

“I don’t believe allowing those individuals to hide their crime by forcing the abortions or allowing the abortions is going to solve that problem,” Stargel says.

Book says she’s determined to keep fighting as the bill moves through its next committee stops and onto the floor.

The bill is set for its final House committee hearing Thursday morning.

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