Everything you need to know about the 2021 Florida Legislative Session and how we continued to fight for equal healthcare and abortion access amidst the Coronavirus pandemic.
This past year has been a weird one that has altered the fabric of our society and the rights we fight for. The Coronavirus pandemic has caused us to adjust our work schedules and our advocacy efforts as the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, so that we can continue offering quality reproductive health care in this state. The pandemic also impacted the 2021 Florida Legislative Session in ways we could not have anticipated, but the good news is: we persevered.
Thanks to the hard work of our allies, volunteers, and steadfast staff and in spite of the aggressive conservative efforts from our opponents, we defeated all anti-reproductive health bills in 2021. So please remember to contribute to Planned Parenthood so we can continue to fight on the front lines against the next phase of attacks on abortion rights and healthcare.
We realize that amidst the pandemic, life changes, and extra challenges of the 2020-2021 year, you may not have been able to track the most important moments of this past legislative session and how it influenced reproductive rights. Lucky for you, we have created a comprehensive list of the 2021 Top Ten Moments in Repro Rights, including how you can get involved and join the fight for equal access to abortion and healthcare.
The Defeat of the 20 Week Abortion Ban (HB 351/SB 744)
As we know, 20-week abortion bans are cruel attempts to impose restrictions on access to abortion. These abortion bans ignore real world situations such as some pregnant people may find their pregnancy is not viable, faces serious health issues or poses serious risks to the pregnant person themselves if they carry to term. Fortunately, the 20-week Abortion Ban proposed by the Florida legislators was struck down by our advocates and did not pass onto the next stages of the 2021 session.
The Defeat of the Reason Abortion Ban (HB 1221/SB 1664)
As yet another attempt to attack and limit abortion access in the state of Florida, this bill aimed to ban some early abortions based on the results of prenatal genetic testing. The sponsors of this bill claimed that it combated discrimination, but bans on abortion won’t make Florida a better place for people born with disabilities. That’s a separate conversation. Fortunately, the Reason Ban was struck down by our team of committed supporters and did not pass onto the final stages of the 2021 session. Instead of playing a divisive political game with the personal decisions of Florida families, our lawmakers should work to ensure people of Florida have access to the real services they need and appropriate accommodations when they need them.
The Mobilization of Our Activists Online
Possibly the most admirable aspect of the 2021 Legislative Session was the strong online presence of our activists amidst COVID-19 related testimony restrictions. While many of our volunteers could not testify against this year’s cruel anti-abortion legislation in-person, they made up for it in phone banking, virtual testimony, and social media advocacy. During a time where our entire world seemed to exist on the internet, it’s safe to say that the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliate’s team of dedicated supporters, advocates, and volunteers showcased their abilities to adapt their activism strategies and continued the fight for reproductive rights in the safety of their homes.
In-Person (But Safe!) Activism Work
With the pandemic making it incredibly difficult for our volunteers and advocates to testify against harmful legislation at the Capitol, we are so grateful to the individuals that endured complicated COVID regulations to speak against harmful anti-reproductive rights bills AND other bills such as the Anti-Trans Sports Bill and the Anti-Protest Bill. All our wonderful volunteers proved their dedication to reproductive rights by relentlessly attending legislative sessions, often scheduled in the middle of their busy schedules as college students and Tallahassee organizers, and encouraging mask-wearing and social distancing throughout their advocacy.
The Efforts of Our Amazing Partners and Legislators in State
The defeat of all anti-reproductive health bills during the 2021 Legislative Session would not have been possible without the incredible work from our amazing partners and state legislators who back our mission for reproductive rights for all. Anti-reproductive health lawmakers fought hard during this session to bring forward legislation that attacked abortion and healthcare standards in the state of FL instead of focusing on COVID relief and the failing job market. However, our coalition fought back even harder to ensure that every pregnant person has the privacy they deserve when accessing healthcare, and every person in need of reproductive care can pursue and receive it.
The Sneaky Passage of the Anti-Trans Sports Bill (SB1028)
Though we may celebrate the battle we won against anti-abortion legislation, anti-trans legislation made it to the desk of Governor Ron DeSantis this legislative session. This bill will ban transgender youth from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity and originally died in committee as a stand-alone bill. However, it was added as an amendment onto a seemingly harmless charter school bill, and Florida senators passed it despite obvious opposition from professional sports organizations, leaders across the nation, and world renowned athletes. Nonetheless, the fight for trans rights does not end here. Visit Equality FL’s page to see how you can help.
The Passage of the Anti-Protest Bill (HB 1)
After this past summer’s flood of activism in response to George Floyd’s death and the revival of the Black Lives Matter movement, conservative lawmakers launched an attack on Floridians’ right to protest this legislative session through the passage of the Anti-Protest Bill HB 1. This bill prevents all activists, particularly Black and Brown leaders in the state, from having their voices heard due to fear of police violence and criminal charges against them if they speak out under this new bill. Nonetheless, the fight for Black lives does not end here. Visit ACLU’s website to see how you can help.
The Passage of SB 90
As if the previous harmful bills weren’t enough to make Floridians feel like their rights are being targeted, the passage of SB 90 calls for requirement revisions of Florida voter applications. This bill promotes a slew of anti-democratic voting measures and restrictions in alignment with the conservative right’s unreasonable distrust towards vote-by-mail procedures. The Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates stands for equal access and equal rights for all, and this bill is an attack on Floridians’ core civil liberties. Stay updated on changes in voting rights here.
The Passage of The Parental Bill of Wrongs (HB 241/SB 582)
Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood activists have challenged the concept of parental rights when it comes to the role parents play in young people receiving the reproductive care they need without restrictions. This bill of so-called parental rights proposed during the 2021 legislative session comes from ultra-conservative national groups and is backed by groups like the Florida Citizens Alliance that seeks to ban books with LGBTQ characters and refers to public school children as “inmates.” Not only is this bill endangering for LGBTQ youth, but our state’s public schools shouldn’t become ideological battlegrounds where parents can broadly influence curriculum at taxpayer expense. We must continue to protect and fight for LGBTQ+ youth in our advocacy for reproductive rights and diverse sex education.
The Failure of the Legislature to Make Civic Involvement Easy and Accessible
Possibly the most worrisome aspect of the 2021 Florida Legislative Session was the failure of legislators to follow COVID-19 guidelines and make public testimony safe and accessible. Legislators refused to expand remote testimony many times, and legislators such as Erin Grall refused to wear masks when sharing mics with constituents in the height of the pandemic. The last straw for us was the constant confusion among legislators about new testimony processes that differ between the Senate and the House. Our Senate and House leadership must do better for the sake of Florida lawmaking and Florida residents.
The success and struggles we faced this past legislative session were no match for the persistence and resilience of our dedicated team of advocates, spokespeople, and volunteers who stopped at nothing to counter the attacks on abortion rights in Florida.
As we move forward in our fight and prepare for the next legislative session, we hope that you stay with us if you’re with us already and tell your friends to join. Your efforts and desires for change in the face of adversity are what keep Planned Parenthood alive and moving towards reproductive rights for all.