Friday, July 20, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: With revamped courts, abortion rights becomes key issue in governor’s race

Abortion rights are routinely under assault from the Republican-led Florida Legislature, and now the preservation of those rights is as fragile as its been in decades. With new appointments coming to both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court, the courts may no longer be a reliable protector of a woman’s right to an abortion. That means the abortion rights debate is more than just theoretical in the race for governor, and voters concerned about reproductive freedom and women’s health should pay particular attention.

It’s an annual exercise for Florida lawmakers to try to restrict abortion access within limits. In 2015, Gov. Rick Scott signed into law a 24-hour waiting period and a requirement for two doctor visits before a woman could obtain an abortion. The courts found the law unconstitutional, but even three years later the state is continuing the legal fight. In 2016, lawmakers again tried but failed to pass a law that would have put regulations for operating abortion centers on par with hospitals and other surgical centers — a veiled effort to shut down clinics. But a 2016 law did block medical providers that perform abortions from receiving state money for preventive care and other services, as well as other regulatory restrictions. Various elements of that law, too, have been struck down by the courts. The assault on abortion rights is relentless, and it could be successful if the balance shifts on the top federal and state courts.

President Donald Trump’s choice to replacing retiring U.S. Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, expected to be announced this week, could result in the court being more receptive to limits on abortion weakening the protections from the 1973 Roe vs. Wade opinion that guaranteed a woman’s right to an abortion.

The privacy clause in the Florida Constitution provides additional protection for abortion rights, but three state Supreme Court justices will be appointed by Gov. Rick Scott as he leaves office or by the incoming governor. A conservative governor could create a more conservative Florida Supreme Court that could have a more pinched view of abortion rights.

In their recent Republican gubernatorial debate, Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam and U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis pledged to sign into law a "heartbeat bill," which would outlaw abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women even know they’re pregnant. So the first time a woman visits her doctor and undergoes an ultrasound, her choice about whether to continue the pregnancy already could be silenced. That’s blatantly at odds with the privacy clause of the Florida Constitution, which says "every natural person has the right to be let alone and free from governmental intrusion into the person’s private life." But a revamped state Supreme Court could have a different view.

Without access to preventive health care, birth control — not abstinence education but contraceptives — and abortion, women suffer. Poor women suffer most. When Texas cut its family planning budget and passed a law that effectively closed many of the state’s abortion clinics, the abortion rate didn’t go down. Indeed, history has shown that onerous restrictions don’t lead to fewer abortions — they lead to fewer safe ones.

Depending on the new appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court and the Florida Supreme Court, by next year the door could be wide open to significant new restrictions on abortion rights. That makes abortion rights a key issue in the race for governor. The leading Republican candidates already have said they would sign into law changes that would dramatically reduce those rights. The leading Democrats running for governor have pledged support for abortion rights. Voters should pay close attention, because the challenges to women’s reproductive rights are no longer hypothetical.

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Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

Editorial: Scott should order investigation of concealed weapons permitting

To his credit, Gov. Rick Scott says he is considering requests to order an independent investigation of how Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam’s office screens applications for concealed weapon permits. It’s a reasonable request, and the governor h...
Published: 07/18/18
Editorial: Algae blooms, toll woes and beach battles -- Florida’s fouled up summer

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July in Florida. The height of summer tourist season. Rental cars clog the highways and tourists crowd the beaches, motels and all-you-can-eat shrimp joints. Many of our neighbors are off to North Carolina or somewhere cooler. So it’s an awfully inco...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/19/18
Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Editorial: Sacrificing two kayaks and a Toyota for free speech

Maggy Hurchalla joked this spring that all she could offer a billionaire who won a $4.4 million judgment against her after she exercised her free speech rights were "two kayaks and an aging Toyota.’’ The billionaire didn’t laugh. This week, Martin Co...
Published: 07/17/18
Updated: 07/18/18
Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

Editorial: Trump sides with Putin over America

In one of the most surreal news conferences of our time, President Donald Trump actually stood next to Russian President Vladimir Putin Monday and called the federal investigation into Russia’s meddling into the 2016 election "a disaster for our coun...
Published: 07/16/18
Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

Editorial: A vote for preserving waterfront parks by St. Petersburg City Council

The St. Petersburg City Council made the appropriate but difficult decision to reject a contract with renowned artist Janet Echelman for one of her aerial sculptures. It would be wonderful for the city to have one of her signature works, but Spa Beac...
Published: 07/13/18

‘Everybody needed to know what happened’

The brutal murder of Emmett Till, a black Chicago youth, in Mississippi nearly 63 years ago went unpunished, but not forgotten. A decision by his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, to allow an open casket at Emmett’s Chicago funeral represented an act of def...
Published: 07/13/18
Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

Editorial: Personal bias taints Florida’s clemency system

A recent exchange between the governor and Cabinet and a felon seeking to have his civil rights restored underscores the arbitrary unfairness of Florida’s clemency system. A long waiting period, a ridiculous backlog of cases and elected officials who...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18

Trump should work with Congress on immigration

Donald Trump’s resounding victory in the 2016 presidential election came at least in part because the New York businessman grasped the disconnect between how millions of Americans and the political establishments of both parties felt about immigratio...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/13/18
Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Editorial: Trump’s trade war hurts American consumers

Voters who looked to Donald Trump to make America great might want to look at their wallets. The president escalated his global trade war this week, threatening new tariffs on $200 billion worth of Chinese imports — everything from seafood, beef and ...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18
Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

Editorial: Rays stadium cost should be fairly shared

The imaginative Ybor City ballpark proposed by the Tampa Bay Rays fits nicely into the 21st century vision of a sophisticated city and would secure major league baseball’s future for the entire region. It also carries an eye-catching cost that will h...
Published: 07/11/18
Updated: 07/12/18