John Stemberger puts Heather Fitzenhagen on blast over anti-abortion claim
John Stemberger

John Stemberger
Evangelical leader calls Senate candidate "most pro-abortion Republican in the Florida House."

Florida’s top evangelical activist trashed Heather Fitzenhagen’s claims on her abortion record as a “bald-faced lie” when it comes to parental consent.

John Stemberger, president of Florida Family Action, said the Fort Myers Republican fibbed her way through her newest campaign commercial.

“Unbelievable bald-faced lie by @RepFitzenhagen in her TV attack ad entitled ‘Why the Lie’,” Stemberger tweeted. “She shamelessly asks her daughter to read the script with the bogus claim, ‘My mom is strongly pro-life and that why she supports parental consent.”

He’s referring to an ad Fitzenhagen released in response to attacks by the Florida Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee, which supports her opponent Ray Rodrigues.

Fitzenhagen, as a member of the Florida House, cast one of few Republican votes against a parental consent bill this year, even speaking against the legislation on the floor.

In her ad, Fitenhagen appears with daughter Olivia, who addresses her mother’s position on abortion. “My mom is strongly pro-life, and as a mom, she supports parental consent,” Olivia says.

Fitzenhagen herself adds: ”But when a mother’s life is in danger, government should not come between our daughters and their doctors.”

That’s hardly enough to satisfy a claim of being “strongly pro-life” while voting against most of the Republican caucus on the consent bill, by Stemberger’s estimation.

But he also finds the messaging hypocritical when abortion rights advocates have lauded her record. The anti-abortion activist then shared Planned Parenthood’s legislative report. That notes Fitzenhagen not only voted on the floor for the parental consent bill but for amendments to add exceptions for abortions resulting from rape or incest, based on mental health and improving access for young people.

Indeed, Fitzenhagen at one point shared a Facebook meme stating “I Stand With Planned Parenthood,” which Stemberger also highlights.

Stemberger said Fitzenhagen’s “pro-abortion record is clear & this TV ad is a stunning ‘Liar-Liar-Pants-on-Fire’100% FALSE claim. The TRUTH is she voted TWICE against Parental Consent bill.

“The TRUTH is @RepFitzenhagen is the single most pro-abortion rights Republican in the Florida House.”

In the most recent FFA legislative report card, Rodrigues received an A+ grade while Fitzenhagen received a B.

Florida Family Action last week formally endorsed Rodrigues, also a state Representative, in the Senate District 27 race. Stemberger told Florida Politics during a visit to Fort Myers this week that electing Rodrigues was one of the top priorities heading into the August primary, and he expected anti-abortion activists to knock on doors in the district on the Estero Republican’s behalf.

Until now, the group focused on boosting Rodrigues, but he took issue online with the Fitzenhagen marketing strategy.

“I dislike calling people liars,” Stemberger tweeted, “but this ad is a blatantly false & deliberate misrepresentation of her record.”

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].

One comment

  • Florida Voice for the Unborn

    July 17, 2020 at 4:04 pm

    Jacob must have “missed” Florida Voice for the Unborn’s letter to Rep. Fitzenhagen, press release, “Grassroots Action Alert,” and website petition concerning this matter. The press release is reproduced in its entirety below, and pro-lifers can sign the website petition, asking that Rep. Fitzenhagen pull her BLATANTLY FALSE video advertisement, by going to our group’s website (just google “Florida Voice for the Unborn”).

    Florida Voice for the Unborn’s 7-17-2020 Press Release:

    “On behalf of Florida Voice for the Unborn, [our executive director] has written a strongly-worded letter to Republican state Representative Heather Fitzenhagen (District 78 – Lee County), urging her to remove a blatantly false video advertisement that was issued by her campaign for Senate District 27 (Lee County) on Thursday, July 16, 2020. In this video advertisement, Rep. Fitzenhagen’s teenage daughter sits next to her mother and falsely claims, ‘My mom is strongly pro-life. And as a mom, she supports parental consent.’ While Rep. Fitzenhagen’s daughter makes this completely ridiculous claim, a scene pops us with Rep. Fitzenhagen holding a baby.

    The truth is, Rep. Fitzenhagen’s record is anything but pro-life. She was only one of two Republican representatives to vote against Senate Bill 404 (Parental Consent for Abortion) when the Florida House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly to pass this life-saving, commonsense measure on February 20, 2020. In fact, five Democratic lawmakers in the House bravely bucked their own party to vote for Senate Bill 404 – and several took to the floor to urge their colleagues to do so. Rep. Fitzenhagen not only voted against parental consent for abortion, but she took to the House floor to condemn her pro-life Republican colleagues for allowing a vote on Senate Bill 404, a bill that also contained a provision that enhances protections for babies born alive after failed abortions.

    While Florida Voice for the Unborn does not involve itself in electoral politics, we simply cannot stand idly by when a sitting representative puts out a blatantly false claim about her own record. During her eight years as a state representative representing Lee County, Fitzenhagen has never voted for any legislation that advances the rights of the unborn. Fitzenhagen is pro-abortion. Her duplicity is telling, in that her minions have been busy lately scrubbing her social media of all references to her long-standing support of Planned Parenthood. In addition to the letter sent to Fitzenhagen today, Florida Voice for the Unborn has launched a ‘Grassroots Action Alert,’ calling upon its statewide network of supporters to contact Fitzenhagen’s House district office to request that Fitzenhagen take-down her false advertisement. Florida Voice for the Unborn’s petition page can be found on its website.

    It is truly ironic that Fitzenhagen’s campaign advertisement is entitled, ‘Why They Lie.’ It seems obvious to [our executive director] that the true liar here is Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen. Her false advertisement must be removed immediately.

    Florida Voice for the Unborn is a new grassroots Tallahassee-based lobbying group that only focuses on pro-life issues impacting the unborn. It is strictly independent, and its work is guided by faith in God’s only Son, Jesus Christ. Florida Voice for the Unborn supports all peaceful efforts by elected officials and others to end abortion and save lives. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest @UnbornVoiceFL – and visit our website.”

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