José Oliva apologizes after ‘host body’ quip sparks national outrage
Jose Oliva speaks to CBS Miami.

Screen Shot 2019-03-01 at 11.06.16 AM
He used the term five times in CBS Miami interview.

House Speaker José Oliva turned heads nationwide when called pregnant women “body hosts.” The Miami Republican issued a public apology after his language was universally panned.

The Miami Republican used the term five times in an interview with CBS Miami where he supported a “cooling off period” before abortions.

“There’s a host body and that host body has to have a certain amount of rights,” Oliva told reporter Jim DeFede, “because at the end of the day it is that body that carries this entire other body to term. But there is an additional life there.”

The pro-life politician said he used the phrase as a way to differentiate the life of an unborn child.

“In a recent interview where the very controversial topic of abortion was raised, I used the term ‘host’ to describe a pregnant woman. It was an attempt to use terminology found in medical ethics writings with the purpose of keeping the discussion dispassionate,” he said.

“The reaction undoubtedly shows it had the exact opposite effect. I apologize for having caused offense, my aim was the contrary.”

Indeed, the provocative term drew wide attention.

The Daily Beast wrote a short item under the headline “Florida Rep. Jose Oliva Calls Women the ‘Host Body’ While Supporting Restrictive Abortion Legislation.”

Novelist Jane Caro called the remarks dehumanizing.

“Host body! No longer a complete and individual human, apparently, when a woman gets pregnant, just a host body for another human,” she wrote on Twitter. “Jesus wept.”

Florida Democrats quickly piled on criticism of the remarks.

Florida Democratic Party spokesman Kevin Donohoe labeled the interview Jose’s Handmaid’s Tale.”

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, an Orlando Democrat and former Planned Parenthood senior director, called out the remark on Twitter.

“With all due respect Mr. Speaker, my body is not a ‘host’ and personal medical decisions around my pregnancy belong to me, my family, my doctor, and my faith — not to politicians,” she said.

Oliva in his statement following the outrage said he intended to use the phrase “host body” as a way to lower emotion but that clearly failed.

“This is and will continue to be our society’s greatest challenge,” Oliva said. “I strongly believe both mother and child have rights and the extent and balance of those rights remain in question. I regret my wording has distracted from the issue. My apologies to all.”

And for House Democratic Leader Kionne McGhee, that apology felt sincere.

“While Speaker and I will probably disagree 99% of the time on policy and 100% on THIS ISSUE,” McGhee wrote on Twitter, “I find him to be a principled and respectful person who is committed to fair treatment of others.”

Still, the “host” terminology became the sound bite cited everywhere.

One social media user posted a picture of Oliva’s family with the description “@RepJoseOliva his Host Body and their living embryos.”

And other critics said the notion simply confused medical facts entirely.

“Pregnant patients are autonomous people, not a ‘host body,’ “ wrote Dr. Daniel Grossman.

He also linked to a University of California, San Francisco study that found women don’t change their minds about getting abortions regardless if they wait three days.

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected]


3 comments

  • VoteBlue2020

    March 1, 2019 at 12:16 pm

    Are there ANY Republicans left that aren’t total jerks ???

    • Kathy

      March 1, 2019 at 9:20 pm

      I used to be a solid Independent voter (and would vote for the moderate candidate of either party), but I have begun to lean Democrat simply because the GOP is moving so far right I can’t find a candidate that either A. is a moderate or B. wont side with the hard righters just because they are of the same party.

      The Dems do have there way left leaning people but haven’t reached the heights of extremism as what the GOP is doing.

      IMHO, The Tea Party really messed up the GOP.

  • DENIS MULCAHY

    March 2, 2019 at 3:10 pm

    With a large increase in the use of IVF and surrogacy it is women who have led the medical profession to the term host (and many others) – a surrogate is a HOST body, plain and simple. I accept that this language has not, until now, entered everyday use and hence the understandable emotional reaction. However, people should consider why this terminology is entering the vernacular now. I maintain that it is because of the many forms of technological and other medical ‘advances’ that are creating grave ethical issues surrounding pregnancy. One such issue is the treatment of surplus embryos in IVF. Parents are left with the agonizing ANNUAL decision to either destroy, use, donate or continue freezing indefinitely the lives they have created.

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