Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Florida Supreme Court should keep abortion restriction on hold

The Florida Supreme Court is weighing whether to allow a state law to take effect that requires women to wait 24 hours before obtaining an abortion. Passed in 2015, the law is an end run around reproductive choice that is unlikely to hold up under Florida's strong right-to-privacy protections in the state Constitution. But because a lawsuit challenging the law's constitutionality is likely to take years, it's critical that the court uphold an injunction and not add to the burden of women facing this difficult decision by allowing the law to take effect while the legal fight plays on.

The legislation, which passed along party lines with heavy Republican support, would force women to make at least two trips to the doctor, have a face-to-face conversation giving informed consent and then wait at least 24 hours before having the procedure. Legislators included an exemption for women who have been the victim of rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking — but only if they can prove it with a police report or medical record. Billed as a modest restriction that allows women adequate time to weigh their decision, the law is anything but empowering. Instead, it assumes women can't make this choice on their own.

The American Civil Liberties Union filed suit, alleging the law overburdens women who live far from a clinic or who can't afford multiple days away from work or family for doctor visits. The ACLU argues the law violates 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." For decades, courts have interpreted that privacy clause to protect the right to an abortion. A trial judge agreed to prevent the law from taking effect while the suit moves forward.

This week, in arguments before the state Supreme Court, a lawyer for the state claimed that the waiting period is "outcome-neutral."

"The state is not trying to encourage or discourage abortions just as the state is not attempting to discourage marriage or anything else," attorney Denise Harle argued. But the words of legislators who supported the bill suggest otherwise. In 2015, Senate sponsor Anitere Flores, R-Miami, said she had heard "horror stories from women who regret their decision." Sen. Lizbeth Benacquisto, R-Fort Myers, equated abortions with "people who didn't get to achieve their dream, to fulfill their purpose, to do what they were meant to do." Rep. Jimmie Smith, R-Inverness, said having an abortion means "you are personally choosing to end a life."

Does anyone seriously believe the Republican-led Legislature is "neutral" about women making their own decisions about their health and their pregnancies?

In passing the 24-hour rule, Florida joined 26 other states with waiting periods ranging from 18 to 72 hours. Florida's Republican lawmakers may argue that they are trying to help women, but as Justice Barbara Pariente noted, no medical reason has emerged in the decades since abortion became legal to justify such a restriction. Women considering abortion give serious thought to their choice, and they are not helped by a law that second-guesses them and makes it harder to exercise their constitutional right.

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Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Updated: 13 minutes ago

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18