Florida state senator wants 50% women legislature for abortion votes

Florida state senator wants 50% women legislature for abortion votes

A Florida state senator wants voters to decide whether a male-dominated state legislature should be allowed to limit a woman’s access to abortion.

State Sen. Lauren Book filed a bill that calls for a constitutional amendment that would prohibit the Florida House of Representatives and Senate from voting on a bill that would affect access to abortions unless at least half of the members of the chamber are women.

“No vote about us without us,” Book told the Tallahassee Democrat about her proposal for the 2020 session of the Florida Legislature. 

A supermajority of the Florida legislature in both chambers are men. They make up 70-percent of the House (84 of 120 members).  And it’s the same in the Senate where 12 women senators (30-percent) are among the 40-member chamber. 

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SB 60 would create a constitutional amendment for voters to decide whether to block a legislative vote on proposals that would limit access to an abortion unless 50% of the chamber is female.

Book, a Democrat, said the measure is in response to recent attempts to restrict abortion services with measures like the so-called fetal heartbeat bill approved in six states earlier this year. Those bills prohibit an abortion in the first trimester when a heartbeat is detected.

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“Seeing what state legislatures across the country have done, I believe it is time to stand up and fight to ensure women have access to comprehensive health care and family planning,” Book said.

More than a dozen abortion bills were filed last session by Florida lawmakers – none made it to a floor vote. But state Rep. Mike Hill earlier told the Tallahassee Democrat he intends to file a heartbeat bill again in 2020.

Last session his proposal failed to gain a committee hearing. It is likely that Book’s bill may face the same fate in the Republican-controlled Senate.

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The 2020 session begins in January with pre-session committee hearings scheduled to begin Sept. 16. Lawmakers began filing bills for the upcoming session Friday – a series of claims bills were submitted Thursday.

Included among the 36 bills filed so far are proposals to ban plastic straws, a sales tax exemption for diapers and a mandate that private schools that accept state voucher money must enroll students regardless of race, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.

Writer James Call can be contacted at jcall@tallahassee.com. Follow on Twitter @CallTallahassee

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