PHOTO VIA CHARLIE CRIST/FACEBOOK
Charlie Crist is ready to bring state government to a standstill as Governor if lawmakers outlaw all abortions in Florida.
The former Republican Governor turned Democratic Congressman, who is the front-runner for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination, vowed to veto all bills passed by the Legislature if Republicans ban abortion and he denies Gov. Ron DeSantis re-election in November.
“If the Legislature goes into a lame-duck Session and this Governor decides that he wants to ban all abortion everywhere, anytime, I will veto every piece of legislation that comes to my desk as your next Governor until they rescind that ban against them,” Crist said.
Crist spoke Thursday in Tallahassee outside the 2nd Judicial Circuit Court, where Judge John Cooper is hearing arguments in abortion advocates’ lawsuit over Florida’s imminent 15-week abortion ban. If Cooper doesn’t halt the legislation (HB 5), the measure will take effect at midnight.
The ban would take effect one week after the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, which became the inspiration for Florida’s legislation. In upholding Mississippi’s law, the Court negated half a century of federal abortion precedent by overturning Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, eliminating the federal right to an abortion.
Already, there are suggestions that DeSantis and Florida’s Republican-led Legislature could hold a Special Session to further reduce the window for abortions.
Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the Florida Constitution is explicit about the right to privacy, which the Florida Supreme Court has previously ruled encompasses the right to an abortion. Ultimately, Florida’s 15-week abortion ban is expected to go before the Florida Supreme Court.
Crist acknowledged a legislative war over abortion would grind government to a halt.
“They’re bringing women’s rights to a halt. Somebody has to stand up for women in Florida. I’m running to do that. They deserve to have an advocate for them,” Crist said.
Crist is currently leading Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried for the Democratic gubernatorial nomination. In recent weeks, Fried has gone on the attack by highlighting Crist’s past comments that he is “pro-life” and his defense of his record by saying that means he is “for life.”
In May, Fried campaign spokeswoman Caroline Korba called Crist’s comments “insulting and infuriating.”
“Charlie is only for Charlie, which makes it so shocking that he can’t even pretend he’s not still pro-life during this primary,” Korba said in a statement. “This is why we need Nikki Fried more than ever — she has never, ever waived on women’s freedom, and never will. Shame on Charlie.”
Crist has noted he is the only candidate who has vetoed an abortion restriction, which he did in 2010 when he nixed the Legislature’s proposal to require women get an ultrasound before getting an abortion. He also has a 100% score from Planned Parenthood Action Fund’s congressional scorecard.
An internal poll Crist’s campaign released Wednesday shows he maintains a strong lead in the Democratic Primary. The poll from GBAO Strategies shows 55% of likely Primary voters favor Crist while only 34% favor Fried.
Democratic lawmakers and activists pushed back against the 15-week abortion ban throughout the 2022 Legislative Session. Opponents hosted rallies, packed committee rooms and flooded the phone lines of lawmakers, and that opposition was reignited last week with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
Florida’s 15-week abortion ban contains no exceptions for rape or incest but provides an exception if it is necessary to save a pregnant woman’s life. Among other criticisms, opponents lamented a provision requiring two physicians to certify a life-threatening emergency. They contend the provision will disproportionately harm low-income and minority women, who may lack adequate access to health care.
According to a staff analysis, Florida recorded 209,645 live births in 2020 and 72,073 abortions — most of them elective.
Crist served as Governor between 2007 and 2011. He was elected as a Republican but left the party in 2010.
As Governor, Crist appointed three of the state Supreme Court’s current members. Six of the seven Justices, including two appointed by Crist, are considered conservatives. Crist’s third remaining appointee, Justice Jorge Labarga, is considered the Court’s one moderate.
The Court’s balance has raised questions over whether the panel would overturn the right to an abortion until viability. When asked about his appointments, Crist told reporters he did not regret his choices.
“The appointments that I have made, and I hope that others have made, are of people that have integrity and respect the Florida Constitution in the United States Constitution,” Crist said.
“These Justices will take this very seriously (and) understand their obligations to uphold the Constitution of the United States and the State of Florida. We have a very broad privacy condition in the Florida Constitution. I believe they respect it. They should.”
This article first appeared at Florida Politics