St. Petersburg health committee tables reproductive rights resolution until next year

Despite hitting roadblocks to more robust protections, Tampa passed a similar ordinance last August.

click to enlarge Reproductive rights activists in St. Petersburg, Florida on June 24, 2022. - Photo by Dave Decker
Photo by Dave Decker
Reproductive rights activists in St. Petersburg, Florida on June 24, 2022.
Even before the overturning of Roe v. Wade, protections for Floridians seeking reproductive care have eroded in recent years. That’s why St. Pete City council member Richie Floyd wants the city to pass a resolution protecting reproductive and privacy rights. He also wants the city to provide funding to non-profit abortion access through the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund. He introduced both items last week in the final Health, Energy, Resilience, and Sustainability (HERS) committee meeting of the year.

“You've seen the criminalization of abortion recently,” Floyd said this week. “And this is basically our statement that we're not comfortable with the recent criminalization efforts.”

Both items were tabled until next year, pending more information from legal, the chief of police, and the administration. Despite hitting roadblocks to more robust protections, Tampa passed a similar ordinance last August. Floyd used that language to work with legal in drafting St. Pete’s version. St. Pete Chief Assistant City Attorney Jeannine Williams said legal risk concerning the resolution is low based on the template from Tampa.

“There are also similar resolutions in other jurisdictions in Florida and a number of them throughout the country,” Williams said. “It’s a policy decision on the wording you want to use, whether or not you pass it at all.”

Some of Floyd’s colleagues say they want language in the resolution broadened. Council member Brandi Gabbard said she’d support such a resolution with changes.

“For me, this doesn’t stop at abortion. It’s all body autonomy, right?” Gabbard said. “I almost wish this was not even specific to abortion, but specific to privacy in health care, period.”

Gabbard asked Chris Lawler, volunteer board president with the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund if the organization could allot funds specifically for St. Petersburg residents.

“As of right now, we don't collect demographic information on people who call in to seek assistance,” Lawler said. “Because of the attacks on abortion access.”

Attorney Williams says that as long as the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund doesn’t perform abortions, funding is possible from the city.

“My understanding of the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund is that they don’t have ownership in an abortion clinic,” Williams said. “They are a fund that helps people individually with access to abortion care. We do not believe that prohibits a donation to an organization as you may donate to any organization.”

Council member Ed Montanari said the resolution is “an extremely bad idea.”

Committee chair Gina Driscoll and Gabbard both said they support Floyd’s ideas but won’t move to pass any resolution or funding yet.

“I want this to go beyond this as a political statement,” Driscoll said. “I see this as a springboard to provide some assistance to women who are facing very difficult decisions.”
Floyd says he’ll continue the conversation with his colleagues and consider broadening the language.

“I just want it not to be lost that this was put forward because reproductive healthcare access in this country is under attack right now,” Floyd said. “I’m disappointed that we’re at this point.”
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