An abortion rights coalition is launching what it calls a major abortion rights advertising campaign that is aimed at members of the Florida Legislature who will be returning to Tallahassee for the start of the 2019 legislative session on Tuesday.
Billboards featuring the image of a woman with the words “I am 1 in four women,” referring to statistics that show one of every four women have had or will have an abortion have been put up along some of the state’s largest highways heading to Tallahassee.
A second line on the billboard says: “Abortion is health care.”
The billboards are placed along the Florida Turnpike, I-75 and I-10 and in locations in Tallahassee where legislators are likely to see them.
“Our goals are to support the one in four women who have had, or will have an abortion in this country, and remind leaders in our state that abortion care is health care,” said Charo Valero, State Policy Director of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, a member of the Floridians for Reproductive Freedom coalition. “Women take care of their families by taking care of themselves and abortion is health care. It’s as simple as that.”
The president of Florida Right to Life says she is “aghast” by the coalition’s claim that “abortion is health care.
“Abortion is not health care,” said Lynda Bell. “Abortion is an elective procedure that terminates the life of a child and often harms women, both physically and psychologically.”
The campaign in support of reproductive rights comes amid new efforts in the Legislature to pass proposals that critics claim will limit abortion rights or ban them outright.
A bill filed (SB 558) filed by Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, would ban abortion at 20 weeks and criminalize doctors who perform the procedure for their patients. A House bill (HB 235) filed by Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola, with its companion Senate bill (SB 792) filed by Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Lady Lake, would ban abortion past six weeks, before many women even realize they are pregnant critics argue..
“These bills are rooted in opposition to safe and legal abortion – not credible medical evidence,” said Laura Goodhue, Executive Director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, a member of the Floridians for Reproductive Freedom coalition. “This is yet another example of politicians inserting themselves in the most private and personal medical decisions best left between a woman in consultation with her doctor, her family, and her faith.”
Bell insists the billboard campaign launched by the Floridians for Reproductive Freedom is a defensive move on the part of pro-choice groups that make up the coalition.
“They are being exposed for who they are and what they are,” Bell said. “These are the people who defend the most gruesome abortion procedures through birth, after birth, and most of them want taxpayer money to fund abortions, and these people are out-of-step with Main Street America.”
Supporters of abortion rights face a new reality in Tallahassee these days. They no longer have the advantage of a more liberal Florida Supreme Court which was more likely to rule in their favor in abortion rights cases in the past. In his first weeks in office, Gov. Ron DeSantis appointed three new justices that have transformed the state’s high court into what some have called one of the most conservative courts in the nation.
“Floridians aren’t truly free if we can’t make our own decisions about our bodies, our lives, and our futures,” said Gina Cremont, who is among the one in four women who have had an abortion. “When someone decides to have an abortion, it should be safe, affordable, and free from punishment or judgment.”
The coalition’s campaign will also feature online advertisements and posts on social media, as well as promotions on college campuses.