Speaking in Kissimmee Wednesday, Gov. Ron DeSantis struggled with a question about newly filed legislation imposing strict, Texas-style restrictions on abortion.
Asked to compare and contrast “The Florida Heartbeat Act” (HB 167), a House bill banning abortions after the fetus develops a heartbeat, with what a reporter called “freedom of choice during the pandemic,” DeSantis fumbled and ultimately offered an inconclusive answer.
“Well, I think the difference is between, uh, the right to life is that another life is at stake. Whereas whether you’re doing stuff is really … if you’ve put something in your body or not, it doesn’t affect other people. So that’s in terms of protecting another life,” the Governor asserted.
“At the end of the day, government was instituted for certain reasons. To protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” DeSantis said, choosing generalities over policy specifics.
Asked to come back to HB 167, DeSantis demurred that he had not “seen what was there.”
“I have a 100% pro-life record and very much have supported when I was in Congress, and signed as Governor,” he said.
While DeSantis claims not to have seen HB 167, sponsored by Deltona Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby, he has been asked to comment on a Texas-style heartbeat abortion bill before. He wasn’t clear then either.
“It’s a little bit different from how a lot of these debates have gone, so we’ll have to look. I’m going to look more significantly at it,” DeSantis said earlier this month.
As DeSantis wrestles with abortion politics, which seem likely to occupy the Legislature this Session as this bill progresses (a Senate version of the legislation is expected), potential 2022 opponents of the Governor have already made their positions known.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, who is running in the Democratic Primary to challenge DeSantis’ reelection, tweeted that the measure is “a direct attack on a woman’s right to choose.”
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried offered a statement as well.
“This bill is dangerous, radical, and unconstitutional. The hypocrisy of this attempt by Gov. DeSantis and Republicans in the state legislature to take away our rights while at the same time preaching ‘my body, my choice” when it comes to wearing masks is absolutely disgusting. They have made it abundantly clear by banning masks in schools and refusing to apply for money to help hungry kids that they don’t actually care about children’s lives. It’s obvious that this is nothing more than a shameless attempt to try to control women and our bodies. To every woman in Florida who sees this news today and is afraid for your rights and your future: I promise you that I will do everything in my power to stop this bill from becoming law,” Fried said.