The following OpEd was published in the Daily Sun on August 26, 2022.
By Teresa Jenkins
Since 1971, August 26 has been recognized as Women’s Equality Day, when we celebrate a woman’s right to vote — when women emerged from their status as second-class citizens. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, meanwhile, is tirelessly working to shove women back into their previous place and eviscerate their status as free and equal citizens.
While the shoving began with his abortion ban, it will not stop there. He has already reduced access to contraception making it clear that it’s not the protection of the unborn that motivates DeSantis; it’s the persecution of women.
The end of allowing women to make their own health care decisions is the beginning of a much more personal attack on individual freedom. What is the governor’s moral justification for forcing women to have children they cannot afford or to withhold healthcare that might save their lives? Medical decisions should be made by women and their doctors — not politicians.
By systematically attacking women’s freedom, DeSantis is showing his true colors — he has no regard for freedom, no regard for women. And now he’s restricting access to contraception by vetoing $2 million allocated to help women in low-income areas access long-acting birth control. The most dangerous thing a woman can do in Florida, particularly a poor woman, is to accidentally become pregnant.
Recently, a judge ruled that under Florida law, the 15-week abortion ban is unconstitutional. Regardless of the court’s ruling, DeSantis vows to press forward denying women health care, constraining their independence, and giving them fewer options. His ban makes no exceptions for rape or incest. This monstrous cruelty shows how little DeSantis cares about the well-being of women and girls who have experienced the unbelievable trauma of sexual violence.
A decades-long conservative crusade to force women to give birth by nullifying Roe vs. Wade has succeeded because Republicans underhandedly stacked the U.S. Supreme Court with justices who have proved to be disastrously extreme. This tragic moment should wake Floridians to reality: They must defend their rights, or they are liable to lose them. And these rights extend beyond reproductive rights to long-settled voting rights, civil rights, and privacy rights.
This is not the Florida I know or even recognize. Politicians making personal decisions should alarm anyone who believes in individual freedom regardless of their political persuasion.
Teresa Jenkins is chair of the Charlotte County Democratic Party; member of the Florida Democratic Central Committee; member of the Florida Democratic State Executive Committee; member of the Florida Democratic County Chairs Association; member of the Florida Democratic Small County Coalition; and author of the book “Make Democracy Work Again.”
Image Credits: Beverly Jensen