First in an occasional series
TALLAHASSEE — Turn out of the 11th floor elevator bank in the Florida State Capitol and the magenta carpet leads to the offices of two lawmakers who are running out of time.
By this April morning, the year's legislative session has already ticked halfway past. Stalled bills teeter toward failure.
In suite 1102, by the door with the framed "feminism" poster, freshman Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani knows her pro-choice proposal never had a chance.
Across the hall, in 1101, Republican Rep. Mike Hill tries not to get frustrated that his bill isn't gaining traction, either. He's been following the same ban he proposed as it sweeps through Georgia, Ohio, Mississippi, outlawing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected, as early as six weeks. Hill reminds himself to trust in God's timing.
In hallways and on the House floor, Hill and Eskamani don't often speak. Abortion has long been an uneasy standoff in Florida, where a privacy clause in the state's Constitution has fended off many of the restrictions that have shuttered clinics in other states.
But politicians on both sides sense the turning tide, that the newly conservative U.S. Supreme Court may chip away at the right to terminate pregnancies or send the issue back to the states to decide, one by one.
Abortion foes across the country, after years of pushing incremental constraints, have launched a barrage of severe restrictions, some designed deliberately to dismantle precedent.
In Florida, a single abortion bill — on parental consent — creeps forward this year, but it has the potential to open the floodgates for many more. Hill and Eskamani are watching, and they can feel the ground moving.