JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Proposed legislation that would create a reimbursement option for city employees who travel for “medical treatments related to reproductive rights” was introduced at the Jacksonville City Council meeting on Tuesday.
City Councilman Reggie Gaffney’s bill has been assigned to various committees to review.
At a news conference Monday on the steps of City Hall, Gaffney, who is also running for a state Senate seat, talked about the bill. He said he does not believe in abortion, but that is not stopping him from introducing the bill.
“I love Jesus like any one person, but I just believe that a woman has the right to choose what she wants to do with her body, and I don’t think it’s a man’s job to do that,” said Gaffney.
READ: Gaffney’s bill on travel reimbursement for reproductive rights
News4JAX first reported about this bill on Friday, and at that time, even though he introduced the legislation, Gaffney didn’t want to talk about it on camera.
On Friday afternoon, Gaffney released a statement saying, “As a man of faith, using this would not be my personal preference. However, as a legislator I represent all people and I will fight for their freedom and their right to have options, and every woman deserves this option.”
Gaffney’s bill comes on the heels of a leaked initial majority opinion from the Supreme Court on Roe v. Wade that has abortion rights advocates scrambling.
If the draft from the Supreme Court holds, it essentially sends the issue of abortion rights back to the states -- like it was before 1973, when the Roe decision established federally that a woman had the right to have an abortion.
If states are in the driver’s seat for abortion laws, Florida and Georgia both have Republican-dominated legislatures that have been efforting tight abortion restrictions. Florida just passed a 15-week abortion ban, and Georgia’s fetal heartbeat law has been essentially halted by a federal court.
That means a local woman who wanted to have an abortion might have to travel out of state, beyond neighboring Georgia, to legally have one.
Gaffney’s bill appears to be preparing for that possibility by establishing that Jacksonville city employees who opt for such treatment could be reimbursed for their travel expenses.
If passed, the bill would go into effect July 1 and allow up to $4,000 in travel expenses annually for a city employee for any medical treatments related to reproductive rights if that treatment is not available within 100 miles of the employee’s home and virtual care is not possible.
According to the bill, those treatments could include medication, procedures or operations -- including terminating a pregnancy, using contraceptives, family planning or gaining access to reproductive health services.
Republican members of the City Council, like City Councilman Rory Diamond, say the bill will never pass.
As for the mayor’s office, this is one piece of legislation that it is not commenting on at this time.