It’s no secret that open access to comprehensive reproductive rights – including birth control and abortion – has evolved into an extremely acrimonious and hostile issue across American society.

The 1st amendment to the U.S. Constitution states, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”  When people bring their personal religious beliefs or values into any public debate, they risk imposing unwanted or restrictive religious practices and beliefs on others who have the right to pursue their own – but different — beliefs or practices.

I have no interest in debating religious or cultural positions on contraception or abortion.  My interest is to encourage a deep look into how and when restricting open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services becomes an economic and human rights issue. When a small group of people — highly committed to their own religious beliefs – engages in persecution of others who do not share their religious beliefs and practices, that results in a violation of the 1st amendment, each and every time.

A recent Pew Research survey found that the majority of Americans (61%) say that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. When religion is included in the demographics of survey participants, 77% of white evangelical Protestants say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. Recent Gallup polling found similar results.

In fact, the loudest voices opposing abortion and open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services in the U.S. seem to come from a +/- 20% minority comprised of predominantly college educated white evangelical Christians.

Yet, the vast majority of people who are adversely impacted by rules, laws or practices which restrict access to the full range of reproductive health care services are socially and economically disadvantaged women, almost always members of a protected class.

The longitudinal negative social and economic impacts on women who are denied access to a voluntary abortion — and the children who are born as a result — are devastating. The spillover of these social and economic impacts into the larger society is chilling.

I’m truly surprised that the current debate on open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services remains centered on religious grounds, when in fact, citizens of the United States have an ironclad guaranty in the U.S. Constitution to freedom from religious persecution.

HB 5 will be presented in the Florida House ‘Professions & Public Health Subcommittee’ on January 19, 2022.

This proposed bill has a very clever title.

The real purpose of the bill is to codify into Florida law, “A physician may not perform a termination of pregnancy if the physician determines the gestational age of the fetus is more than 15 weeks.”

HB 5 is a direct affront on the rights of all women to make personal decisions relative to their own lives.

Whenever arbitrary restrictions are imposed on open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services, the actual outcomes have disproportionate adverse economic impact — and direct deprivation of human rights — on young women; low-income women; and women of color.

These are socially and economically disadvantaged women, almost always members of a protected class.

The great majority of published public opinions opposing open and unrestricted access to comprehensive reproductive health care over the past 4 decades – including both contraception and abortion – center on personal ethical, moral or religious values.

Nationally, the loudest voices opposing open access to comprehensive reproductive health care services come from a small minority of predominantly college educated white evangelical Christians.

When people bring their personal religious beliefs or values into any public debate, they risk imposing illegal, unwanted or restrictive religious practices and beliefs on others who have been granted the Constitutional right to pursue their own – perhaps significantly different – beliefs.

I am aware of no rational person who considers abortion to be a primary means of family planning or birth control. Abortion is a last resort, a means to be employed only when all other options have failed.

I’m hopeful that you will reach a conclusion similar to mine on this Bill:  Florida’s government should focus on supporting our residents and improving health care, not taking away their rights, especially rights that can materially impact their health, livelihoods, and futures.

I encourage you to join me in asking members of the Florida Legislature to carefully and objectively examine the broad implications of HB 5 prior to taking a position on the Bill.