TALLAHASSEE, FL — Late Wednesday evening, as the Florida House voted on H.B. 5, an abortion ban at 15 weeks of pregnancy, abortion rights advocates — including Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates volunteers and staff — were forcibly removed from the House gallery by law enforcement officials. It was a stunning and anti-democratic display from House Republican leadership, who commanded Capitol law enforcement to issue citations not only to students who chanted “my body, my choice” as debate closed, but to every person who had been present to oppose the abortion ban.
This is the latest attempt by Florida House leadership to silence Floridians — especially young Floridians. Student activists have been present at the Florida Capitol throughout the legislative session to oppose not only the abortion ban, but also anti-LGBTQ+ legislation like the “Don’t Say Gay” bill and anti-critical race theory legislation. Just a few weeks ago, several were also prevented from testifying against the abortion ban, were thrown out of the hearing so that the vote happened behind closed doors.
On Wednesday, repression by Florida Capitol police reached a new height. More than two dozen abortion advocates were issued one-year long “no trespass” citations at the command of House Speaker Chris Sprowls. One organizer was detained for nearly 19 hours at Leon County Jail, even after a judge ordered the organizer’s release.
The organizer, Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates statewide organizing director Lauren Brenzel, was not given access to an attorney until moments before the hearing and reported miserable conditions in the Leon County Jail. Necessary prescription medication was withheld; they were given inedible food; and they had limited access to clean water — with the cell’s only water source contaminated by human waste.
Statement from Alexis McGill Johnson, president, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:
“Planned Parenthood Action Fund stands with those activists who stood up for our civil liberties in the Florida chamber, on Wednesday night and in the many weeks leading up to the House vote. We will not let the state silence us. And we will not stop fighting against these unconscionable laws.”
Statement from Lillian Tamayo, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida:
“Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida is grateful to the young people who have shown up for weeks to protest this cruel abortion ban. Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates will continue to support you as you speak up for what you believe in. And we are grateful for FAPPA’s statewide organizing director Lauren Brenzel, who put themself on the line to support the next generation of advocates this week. Lauren’s report from the county jail is harrowing and deeply concerning.”
Statement from Stephanie Fraim, president and CEO, Planned Parenthood of South, West, and Central Florida:
“Throughout this process, the voices of students, doctors, and other civically engaged Floridians trying to speak out against banning abortion in Florida have been silenced. They have been ridiculed and forcibly removed from public spaces. In the dead of night on February 17, Lauren was arrested and kept in custody for nearly nineteen hours. Lauren broke no laws, but just had the audacity to try to protect the students who’d been kicked out of the gallery of the Florida House. For that, Lauren lost their bodily autonomy and their freedom — which is what will happen to millions of Floridians if HB 5 becomes the law."
Planned Parenthood Action Fund is an independent, nonpartisan, not-for-profit membership organization formed as the advocacy and political arm of Planned Parenthood Federation of America. The Action Fund engages in educational, advocacy, and limited electoral activity, including grassroots organizing, legislative advocacy, and voter education.
The Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates is the nonpartisan advocacy and political organization representing Florida’s two Planned Parenthood affiliates. The Alliance engages in educational and electoral activity, including legislative advocacy, voter education, and grassroots organizing to promote the Planned Parenthood mission