Florida politicians love nothing more than declaring that Florida is synonymous with freedom. Gov. Ron DeSantis even proclaimed that our state is “the freest state in America” recently. But when it comes to protecting Floridians’ rights to make some of the most important health care decisions of their lives, Republicans’ rhetoric about freedom rings hollow.
Florida is one of the most restrictive states when it comes to access to reproductive health care. Republicans recently passed a law that forces victims of rape, incest and human trafficking who are at least 15 weeks pregnant to give birth. As the Supreme Court stands poised to overturn Roe v. Wade, opening the door to new restrictions on reproductive health care, some in our state are looking to go even further in the near future with a complete ban on abortion.
Leading this charge against our rights to make our own health care decisions is Sen. Marco Rubio. For years, Rubio has been one of the most outspoken politicians pushing for new laws and regulations that would allow people like him to interfere in the most private decisions women and their doctors have to make. He has said he wants Roe v. Wade overturned and would support judges who would vote to do so. He doesn’t support exceptions in abortion bans that would protect victims of rape or incest, and he’s even introduced legislation that could throw doctors in jail for providing reproductive health care services that he wants to ban. Rubio’s abysmal record goes back to his time in the Florida House, where he voted to require women to take out ads in their local newspaper recounting their sexual histories in order to place their babies up for adoption.
As a doctor, my top concern is always the health of my patients. The last thing they need is a politician like Marco Rubio telling them what they can or can’t do with their own bodies. But for politicians like Rubio, respecting decades of Supreme Court precedent and listening to the clear majority of Floridians who oppose new restrictions on abortion is less important than advancing his own political agenda.
Republicans across the country are now going further than abortion bans and opening the door to restrictions on contraception that could punish women for deciding when and how they’d like to start their families. Rubio has already supported legislation to make it harder to access birth control. If given the chance, it’s clear that Rubio and other Republicans would further limit access to contraception.
Like all Floridians, the patients I see every day deserve the right to control their own bodies. Bodily autonomy is a governing principle in medicine, and not something politicians should be interfering with. These efforts to restrict access to contraception and abortion would not just mean new limits on our rights and freedoms, but would put women in danger by denying them the health care they need.
Spend your days with Hayes
Subscribe to our free Stephinitely newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that abortion access is safe, life-saving, common and an essential part of health care. Yet Rubio doesn’t care what trusted physicians and medical experts have to say, and cares even less for patients’ rights. He once said that he would continue to support laws banning abortion even if “100%” of Floridians disagreed with him. “I’m willing to lose elections over my principles,” he declared in the same speech. It’s time for Floridians to make sure that happens. If Marco Rubio won’t protect our freedoms to make our own health care choices, we’ll replace him with someone who will in November.
Dr. Rachel Rapkin, a Democrat, is an obstetrics and gynecology specialist in Tampa.