Femme Victory! MWC helps beat back anti-abortion and anti free speech law
Photo: Maria Esquinca / Miami New Times
In partnership with the ACLU, and other allies, the Miami Workers Center helped defeat an arcane and repressive law that looks like something out of the Handmaid’s Tale.
Among other things, Florida HB 1411, which became law in March 2016, included provisions that required anyone discussing abortion with a woman to register with the state as an ‘abortion counselor’ and read a government mandated statement about the subject.
That’s right: before discussing with your friend her options around an unwanted pregnancy, the law, as passed, requires you to first complete a form, pay a fee and register with the government as a licensed ‘abortion counselor.’ The license requires you to convey government approved information about abortion as part of the conversation. Failure to either register or repeat government propaganda are grounds for arrest and up to one year in prison.
This is not just a restriction on free speech, effectively criminalizing certain intimate and private conversations with loved ones, but government mandated speech, requiring people to parrot the official government position or face imprisonment.
The most extreme, but not all, provisions of the law were struck down in late September 2017 by Robert L. Hinkle, a federal judge in Tallahassee charged with deciding the fate of the legal challenge launched by the statewide coalition and argued by the ACLU of Florida.
Forcing people to register with the state in order to legally talk to a woman about her own body is morally wrong and serves only to isolate and limit the free range of options available to women.
Of course, the very politicians that limit low-income Black or brown women’s choices are the ones that also criticize women for being poor and having children. And the very politicians that justify eliminating health coverage for millions or weakening environmental protections for our air and water or reduce rights for low wage workers, are the same politicians that support registration with the state prior to engaging in intimate and personal conversations with loved ones.
While the Florida legislature fails to act on critically important issues, such as the lack of housing, high poverty rates, lack of access to healthcare, low quality education and the threat of mass deportation, they always find the time to regulate the bodies of women, especially poor, Black, brown, immigrant and LGBTQ women, girls and femmes.
The fact that such a backwards bill was introduced, debated, passed and was signed into law by Florida governor, demonstrates exactly why the #FemmeAgenda work is so important:
The Miami Workers Center is organizing to preserve the rights of women, girls and femmes to exist, to make our best choices for ourselves, our families and our communities without any interference.