In Florida, There’s a Growing Gap Between What People Say About Abortion and What They Do

If Florida’s anti-abortion movement is feeling emboldened by new laws and the Supreme Court’s likely decision on Roe, this isn’t so visible around Miami. The city has in the past seen passionate demonstrations over issues of import to the Cuban community there — the fate of Elian Gonzalez, for example, and the death of Fidel Castro brought thousands of people into the streets. I saw no triumphant demonstrators at the clinics I visited in Hialeah; by the time I got to the Planned Parenthood in Coral Gables around noon, the Catholics who gather there to pray and hand out literature on the sidewalk for about two hours on Saturday mornings had already dispersed. A few Planned Parenthood volunteers in pink shirts stood near the doorway of the open clinic, along with a dog (also in a pink shirt). They’d been instructed not to speak to the press.

There were no demonstrators outside the abortion clinic in Miami’s Little Havana, either, and the ladies at a salon next door called Get Nailed declined to share their opinions on abortion. About half a mile down Calle Ocho, the cultural spine of Little Havana, outside the Versailles restaurant, however, a different kind of demonstration was starting up. Miguel Saavedra was standing with friends by a Dodge Ram from which Cuban, American, and Trump 2020 flags flew, and others were starting to gather. Saavedra said he’s against abortion except in emergencies, but that wasn’t what this demonstration was about: It was about protesting Joe Biden, whom he believes is bringing socialism to America.

Relative to broad impact of rising prices for gas or groceries, the number of people directly affected by abortion is comparatively small. But the fear, among some, of where the state’s politics are heading is no less real. “I think DeSantis and Rubio, my God,” Routt said. “I think they relish the opportunity to embolden their GOP base, which is now more aligned with Trump-era policies, which is unfortunate because those policies are … the most extreme when it comes to building on former traditional views of how women should be in society.” Deans, the doctor who performs abortions at the clinic where Routt received hers, said she thinks Florida’s new and potential future abortion restrictions have made her patients “more angry, and more likely to make their voices heard with their vote.” Fernandez of Sidewalk Advocates isn’t angry: She’s hopeful, and she thinks there should be a full statewide ban. “I do believe that there’s going to be a change, but it’s going to take time. It’s just like, a wound that we have to take care of.”

Meanwhile, there’s a large group of Florida women who have also had abortions and haven’t engaged in activism in any direction. If they expected to move on, they may now find themselves drawn into a debate they didn’t seek. But many of the ones I spoke to doubted that the outcome, whatever it is, would weaken the state’s Republicans. Valerie from the panhandle, in fact, is a registered Republican just so she can vote in her part of the state, where the primaries settle the outcome because “a Democrat’s not going to get elected up here.” She remains sorrowful about her own abortion; her daughter Rebecca had been due in May. “If life had been kind, I would have a newborn right now,” she said. But she also says she’s “terrified” about what new abortion restrictions could be coming in her state, and the idea that her daughters won’t have the same options she did. “I think what I really want people to know is just, we’re not bad people,” she said. “We really are making the best decision that we can.” Dana Sloope’s husband Adam, who describes himself as left-leaning, said he sees abortion politics as a tug-of-war between extremes of left and right. “And everyone in the middle is being dragged through the mud.”

In Tallahassee a few days later, Florida Voice for the Unborn, an anti-abortion lobbying group, hosted a “Day of Action” on the steps of the Historic Capitol. A media advisory ahead of time had promised that “several stalwart pro-life legislators” had confirmed speaking slots, and that “members of the Governor’s staff are also expected to attend, and may speak as well.”

The hope was to attract the attention of lawmakers, who were meeting across the brick courtyard, in the current Capitol building, for a special legislative session on property insurance. Three House Republicans made an appearance at the rally. State Rep. Dana Trabulsy (R-Fort Pierce) attended but told Voice for the Unborn founder Andrew Shirvell that she did not wish to speak. State Rep. Barnaby, whose post-six-week abortion ban foundered in the legislature previously, told rallygoers he wouldn’t follow House leadership on abortion unless they pushed for a complete ban. State Rep. Randy Fine (R-Palm Bay) professed that life begins at conception and said that “if there’s anything unfair about the entire debate that I hate, I wish we men shouldered it as well.”

They were addressing a crowd of about 50 people. No one from the governor’s office showed up.

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