Florida activists fight the HB5 anti-abortion bill
Tallahassee, FL – On February 16, organizations from around the state came to Tallahassee to stand up for reproductive rights and against HB5. On that day, the Florida House debated the unconstitutional and restrictive anti-abortion bill, HB5.
HB5 would eliminate any abortions after 15 weeks, with no exception in cases of rape, incest or human trafficking, and criminalize medical professionals who provide abortions.
Standing against this bill are organizations from around the state including FSU/UNF/USF Students for a Democratic Society, Tampa Bay Community Action Committee (TBCAC), Tallahassee Community Action Committee (TCAC), and statewide chapters of Planned Parenthood.
Kill the bill: Students fight back
To begin the day, Florida chapters of Students for a Democratic Society held a rally of around 70 people on the Historic Florida Capitol steps to demand reproductive rights for all. “The fact that [SDS chapters] drove hours across Florida with just a few days' notice to fight this bill shows the dedication we have,” stated Cas Casanova of FSU SDS. The students spoke on topics ranging from the future of Roe v. Wade to how HB5 impacts oppressed groups. One SDSer asserted that Florida Republicans’ “facade of concern for the Black community is just another attempt to gaslight us into silence.”
This was SDS’s second statewide action against HB5; the first action ended with the House trying to silence SDSers to no avail. In the face of repeated repression, FSU student Alana Felton of FSU GenAction stood up and declared “We will not go away, and we will not be silenced!”
Defeat the abortion ban: The community continues the struggle
After the student protest, the Tallahassee Community Action Committee held a protest of over 30 people to further the demands of reproductive justice.
“Reproductive justice is an issue that affects everyone, whether you have a uterus or not,” said Delilah Pierre, field director for TCAC.
Taylor Cook, a speaker at both TCAC and SDS’s protest, talked about the bill’s effects on working-class communities in Florida: “These bills are an attack on Black and brown people and on poor people.”
While the community was rallying, the Florida House abruptly began debating HB5. TCAC quickly ended the rally and flooded the gallery.
All day occupation: Planned Parenthood v. abortion ban
While the protests continued outside, Planned Parenthood chapters from around the state occupied the Capitol gallery the entire day. Beginning with a march to the capitol, Planned Parenthood was still at the capitol after midnight.
With a force of more than 100 volunteers, Planned Parenthood demanded that HB5 be voted down in the House. “Abortion bans are dangerous, racist, classist and deeply invasive and we’re going to keep fighting them,” stated Ally Walchak from Planned Parenthood.
Bill passes, struggle continues
As sponsoring Representative Erin Grall ® began her closing remarks, which were riddled with disgusting anti-abortion arguments, SDSers began chants of “My body, my choice.” Police and capitol staff aggressively grabbed the students, pushed them out of the hall, and demanded they leave. As the SDSers and Planned Parenthood representatives exited the elevator to leave, they were confronted and detained by Capitol Police at the order of the Florida Speaker of the House Chris Sprowls.
Every single pro-choice advocate, no matter if they chanted, was ‘trespassed’. This means that, for the next year, if they step inside of the Florida House, they will be arrested on the spot. Lauren Brenzel, a Planned Parenthood activist who never chanted and refused to take the trespassing charge, was subsequently arrested and held overnight in jail.
While Florida Republicans have fast tracked this bill through the legislative process, the bill remains unconstitutional as it violates Roe v. Wade. The Florida Republicans are hoping to pass this unconstitutional bill in hopes that Roe v. Wade will be overturned by the Supreme Court this summer. Students, community organizations and individuals around the country will continue to stand against repressive anti-abortion bills.
Dare to struggle! Dare to win!