With five of its seven justices appointed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, the Florida Supreme Court could soon determine the future of reproductive freedom in the state. We spoke with the Director of Advocacy at Florida Access Network to find out more about the effects of the state’s impending six-week ban.
For some women across Florida, the issue of abortion rights is more than a hot-button issue or political debate. Take Vivian Santos. All that the Cuban American graphic designer from Miami wanted was to have a child. But after three miscarriages in two years, she and husband Ramón felt hopeless. Then they were faced with a heartbreaking dilemma.
“I got pregnant for the fourth time. But at 14 weeks, our doctor told us that the baby was deformed and had a medical condition that would eventually kill our child before birth. So, we had to wait until the baby died or have an abortion,” Santos told Floricua. “It was unbelievable to us, who wanted to have a baby, that we would ever have an abortion!”
She says that when her own doctor refused to perform the abortion on religious grounds, “the guilt was awful.”
“Our doctor’s refusal made us think that we were doing something wrong,” she added.
Eventually she found a “supportive, understanding” place to have the procedure. Today, she calls Gov. Ron DeSantis’ six-week abortion ban being debated in the Florida Supreme Court “ridiculous.”
“When we were in fertility treatments, we were being monitored by the doctors and we wouldn’t find out if we were pregnant until six to seven weeks,” she says. “How can any woman find out? I never had regular periods, so this concept about missing periods is ridiculous!”
DeSantis’ Hand-Picked Supreme Court
On Friday, the Florida Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a lawsuit brought by Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union challenging a 15-week abortion ban signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis in 2022. The case hinges on a key part of the Florida Constitution–Article II, Section 23, the state’s privacy clause–that protects access to abortion.
Five of the seven justices hearing the arguments were appointed by DeSantis and during the arguments on Friday, they appeared willing to undermine the state constitution and uphold the ban.
If the court ultimately approves the 15-week ban, the six-week ban would take effect 30 days later, cutting off access to abortion early in the first trimester. Currently, Florida is the only state south of Virginia where abortion is legal through 15 weeks of pregnancy.
To find out more about the possible effects of the passage of the six-week ban and what advocates are doing to prepare to protect abortion rights in the future, Floricua spoke with Ysabella Osses, Director of Advocacy at Florida Access Network. As the only statewide abortion fund in the state of Florida, the non-profit organization provides abortion funding, support, and reproductive health aid through community organizing and widespread education.
The interview has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Floricua: The Florida Supreme Court appears inclined to uphold a 15-week abortion ban which 30 days later would result in a six-week ban. This is before many women know they’re pregnant. If the six-week abortion ban passes, how do you envision it will affect people in Florida?
Ysabella Osses: This abortion ban will have a devastating impact on our Florida community as well as folks in the Southeast, because right now Florida is seen as a safe haven for abortion in the Southeast.
Who will be most affected by the six-week ban, if it is upheld?
We know that abortion bans affect the working class. They affect minorities in this country, as well as Black, indigenous and Latina queer communities. I can only imagine what undocumented people are going through.
What are some of the difficulties they could encounter?
People who have the documents to go out of the states will have to travel. In the majority of workplaces here in the state of Florida, they don’t give you access to days off to go and travel, which means that [workers] will lose money and they will lose income, because those are days that they will have to take off [from work] to travel, if they even have the opportunity and the privilege to go to another state. People who have money will always be able to buy their freedom. If somebody in Florida is pregnant and wealthy and they’re over six weeks, they can go to another country or another state to get the care that they need. So right now, in the State of Florida and the United States, you can buy your own freedom.
You have previously stated that the six-week abortion ban is forcing pregnancy on people. Can you elaborate on that?
I was saying that a six-week abortion ban is their way of saying that they want a total abortion ban. That is forcing pregnancy on people. And you know everything that entails, because right now we’re going through an economic crisis, we’re going through a housing crisis, right? And if people don’t want to be pregnant, the United States and the government, or a politician, cannot force them to have children. I believe that each one of us should be free to make the best decisions for our lives, and that the health care that we get as people who can get pregnant should be between us and our health care provider.
Republican lawmakers in the state have also voted to increase funding for anti-abortion centers that encourage women toward parenting or adoption. What are your thoughts on this?
The governor has not only signed the six-week abortion ban that is being heard right now, but there’s also $25 millions of our taxpayer dollars going to anti-abortion centers. Our money is going to things that we don’t want them to go to.
What do these measures say about how the state of Florida views women?
That our only job is to be parents and be pregnant and to serve men. We have one job. And that job is to be pregnant and take care of our families. That contradicts the fact that I live in the United States, and I am supposed to build the life that I want and do what I want. I have that freedom in this country, and we’re not seeing that right now.
Does Florida seem like “the freest state in the union?”
How can we talk about a state being the freest, when people my age can’t afford to pay rent? We saw our last legislative session, there were bills signed to ban abortion care, to ban gender affirming care for people who need it. We see that right now we’re banning history in the state of Florida. We’re banning people from talking about slavery. We’re banning people from talking about indigenous sovereignty.
If the six-week abortion ban passes, what is next for pro-choice advocates?
Almost 49% of people who get abortions are already parents in the state of Florida. And so being anti-choice and being anti access is not a very popular stance here in the state. We have a ballot initiative here in the state of Florida that we’re working on to put abortion on the ballot next year.
Anything you’d like to add?
We are not going to back down until reproductive justice, which is the access to [the right to decide whether to] have children or not have children, is achieved. And if we decide to have children, for them to live in safe and sustainable communities. People look at abortion as if it were something new, but as an indigenous person, I can tell you that abortion has existed ever since people have gotten the opportunity to get pregnant. And when somebody wants to get an abortion, they’re most likely going to get one. So right now, at the Florida Access Network, a charity organization [that works] through small donations, we are fighting for people’s access to get safe abortions.