By Hannah Knowles and Kelsey Ables
The arrests came hours after the state Senate voted to approve a ban on abortion in most cases after six weeks, which is being described by activists as a near-total abortion ban. It is expected to be approved by the state House and Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) in the coming weeks, and would mark a shift from the 15-week ban DeSantis signed into law last year.
The legislation in Florida is one of several instances of Republican lawmakers across the country seeking to curb access to abortion since Roe v. Wade was overturned in June. Nearly a year later, abortion has been banned or mostly banned in more than a dozen states.
Book spoke passionately against the legislation on the Senate floor Monday. “In the course of just two generations, we’ve seen our rights won and lost. It is up to us to get them back,” she said. “No one is going to save us but ourselves.”
Tallahassee police said protesters were told they could not continue their demonstration after sundown and were arrested for trespassing after multiple warnings. “TPD encourages individuals exercising their First Amendment right of peaceful assembly to do so in accordance with the law,” the department said in a statement.
Anna Eskamani, a Democratic state representative from Orlando who was at the jail late Monday trying to help obtain the release of those who had been arrested, said it was “absolutely ridiculous” for people to be arrested while “peacefully protesting for abortion rights.”
“But Florida is where freedom goes to die, and that became even more evident tonight,” Eskamani said.
The demonstrations were relatively small; about a dozen people stood across the street from the Capitol with signs Monday morning, chanting “Abortion is health care!” and “Ron DeSantis has got to go!” as lawmakers and aides arrived for work.
A video from the evening, sent to The Post by Book’s team, shows demonstrators sitting in a circle singing “Lean on Me.” As officers pull them off the ground to put them in handcuffs, women can be heard shouting, “Shame, shame on you.”
Earlier Monday, some protesters were hustled out of the public gallery overlooking the state Senate chambers after they shouted over lawmakers’ speeches on the abortion bill. Some were forcibly removed; others yelled out criticism then left preemptively. After several disruptions, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R) ordered everyone out of the gallery.
“Bodily autonomy should not give a person the permission to kill an innocent human being,” Sen. Erin Grall, the bill’s sponsor, said on the floor. In a statement after the bill passed in the Senate, she called Florida “a nationwide leader in defending the rights of the unborn.”
DeSantis has been vague in public about what abortion restrictions he supports and has focused on other issues as he tours the country promoting his memoir and laying the groundwork for a likely presidential run. But when asked recently about the measure, he said, “I’m willing to sign great life legislation.”
Although tightening Florida’s abortion restrictions could help DeSantis in a GOP primary, many Republicans believe strict abortion stances hurt their candidates in last year’s midterms. In speeches over the weekend in Pennsylvania and New York, DeSantis made no mention of the abortion ban nearing passage in Florida.
Other states, including Georgia, have proposed similar so-called “heartbeat bans” that intend to restrict abortion around when fetal cardiac activity is detected.
According to a 2021 study from the University of California San Francisco, 1 in 3 people find out they are pregnant after six weeks and about 20 percent find out after seven. Restrictions after six weeks “disproportionately prevent young people, people of color, and those living with food insecurity from being able to access abortion,” the study’s authors wrote.