Abortion under explicit Florida privacy laws endangered if state follows Texas, expert says

After Texas passed the nation’s most restrictive abortion law to date, despite widespread opposition, Florida Republican lawmakers are considering a similar bill. Kara Gross, the Legislative Director and Senior Policy Counsel of the ACLU of Florida, says a similar move in Florida would have “devastating” effects not only for state residents, but nationwide as well.

 

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According to Gross, Florida currently provides more protection for people seeking abortion due to its explicit privacy laws. Florida’s Constitutional Right to Privacy says: 

“Every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life except as otherwise provided herein. This section shall not be construed to limit the public’s right of access to public records and meetings as provided by law.”

The statute applies to a variety of areas, including financial and medical records. This level of protection, which according to Gross exceeds even federal privacy rights, leads to residents from other states travelling to Florida for medical procedures, including abortion. 

“If people now are traveling from other southern states to Florida because of our greater right protection here — because we have an explicit right of privacy in our constitution that is unique to Florida —  if Florida were to pass something like [SB 8], those ramifications would be devastating because other states wouldn’t be able to access that care.”

Gross also said the nature of SB 8, which allows citizens to sue any person aiding with an abortion, would harm not only providers, but entire networks of care. 

“It’s a breaking down of that network for individuals who find themselves needing access to abortion, and [a] network that they will normally reach out to for care and support would now be liable under this bill and subject to $10,000 in fees, and also attorneys fees and lawsuits.”

These financial burdens would put underserved communities further at risk, said Gross. Pregnant people who earn high incomes and have flexible work schedules can afford to fly to a different state for an abortion and take time off for the procedure.

“[They] will be able to do this more readily than the vast majority of individuals who are poor and marginalized — people of color, people in rural areas. So this has a grave and disproportionate racial and economic impact that is devastating.”

On Sept. 1, the day Texas’ abortion bill went into effect, Rep. Anthony Sabatini (R – LD 32) said he would introduce a similar bill in Florida, according to the South Florida Sun Sentinel. And in a conversation with WFLA News, Florida Senate President Wilton Simpson said “there is no question” they would consider the bill if proposed. 

Governor Ron DeSantis, who in late June signed a bill requiring parental consent for minors seeking abortion, has expressed interest if restrictions like SB 8 come forward in Florida. On Sept. 2, at a West Palm Beach conference, DeSantis reiterated his pro-life stance.

“We’ve been able to do pro-life legislation. I’m pro-life. I welcome pro-life legislation.”