JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A group of Jacksonville leaders gathered Friday to demand more answers from Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis about what they say are reproductive rights.
At a morning news conference, local Democrats slammed Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis over his positions on abortion and the fact that he suspended an elected state attorney for pledging not to enforce the state’s new 15-week abortion ban.
“The governor of the state owes us answers on why he swore to protect and defend the Florida Constitution and is hellbent on doing the opposite,” said state Sen. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville.
The issue of abortion is raising concerns on both sides. While there is no question regarding abortion rights on the ballot in Florida, political leaders are telling their supporters to take the issue to the polls during the primary and in the November election when they vote for elected officials.
“Voting is the first step, but also getting involved with the people on the ground is very important equally,” said Alyx Carrasquel, with Florida Access Network.
Gibson said, “But the other part of that is not everybody rises to the same level of activity, and certainly, the expectation and the reason that we are here is to encourage people to protest with their vote.”
News4JAX reached out to the governor’s office, and a spokesperson wrote back, saying this is a campaign issue and they’re not going to be commenting.
In an executive order formally suspending Hillsborough County State Attorney Andrew Warren, DeSantis focused heavily on Warren’s signing of statements where prosecutors from across the country said they won’t use their offices to pursue criminal cases against seekers or providers of abortion or gender transition treatments.
“When you flagrantly violate your oath of office, when you make yourself above the law, you have violated your duty. You have neglected your duty and you are displaying a lack of competence to be able to perform those duties and so today, we are suspending state Attorney Andrew Warren effective immediately,” DeSantis said at a news conference Thursday in Tampa.
During a news conference Friday in West Palm Beach, DeSantis spoke more about the suspension.
“We had evidence that you had a fellow over in Tampa that had basically said there are certain things he’s just not going to enforce, there’s going to be certain policies they’re going to do where people are presumptively let off the hook, even though the law requires,” DeSantis said. “So we did something about that, and we made sure that we’re enforcing the rule of law.”
Florida’s new abortion restriction became effective July 1. It prohibits abortions after 15 weeks, with exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life, prevent serious injury or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. It does not allow exemptions in cases where pregnancies were caused by rape, incest or human trafficking.
Violators could face up to five years in prison. Physicians and other medical professionals could lose their licenses and face administrative fines of $10,000 for each violation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.