Pro-Choice Activists March at Lake Eola Park
By Tom Lemons, Legal Correspondent
** Ayo & Iken does not take a position on abortion and has presented this material to educate clients on the current laws of Florida. Practicing attorneys are advocates for clients, not political advocates that lobby for change.
Women’s Suffrage, the Civil Rights era, and Roe v. Wade are three of the most profound transformations in U.S. history. Although two of the revolutionary victories for equal rights were long overdue, the right for women to terminate a pregnancy was not as celebrated or gratifyingly acknowledged by everyone, and nearly 50-years after the landmark decision, states are beginning to pass radical legislation to restrict and ban abortions altogether or allow late-term and even post-birth abortions.
Democrats in Virginia and New York catapulted the abortion debate back to the forefront after legislation was introduced that would allow women to terminate a pregnancy in the third trimester or even after a child is born.
Virginia Democrat Rep. Kathy Tran introduced her bill earlier this year that would allow a woman to decide the fate of her pregnancy up to and even after the birth of her child. Tran explained to Virginia House Republican majority leader Todd Gilbert that a woman’s decision would be between her and the physician and could be based solely on the mental health of the mother. (VIDEO courtesy of the Republican Standard)
Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York signed the “Reproductive Health Act” into law on the January 22nd of this year, decriminalizing late-term abortions. Gov. Cuomo consummated the decree on the 46th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. He also ordered One World Trade Center to be lit pink in celebration of its passage.
In response to the far-reaching moves by Democrat legislators, Republicans in Alabama, Georgia, Missouri, and several other states have begun introducing bills and passing laws to vastly restrict or even ban abortions in their respective states, and the conflicting moves has sparked a hailstorm of contentious debate between lawmakers and citizens alike.
The Ayo & Iken Report was in Orlando last weekend where a large group of pro-choice activists marched from Lake Eola Park to City Hall, in support of women’s rights. A smaller group of pro-life supporters, comprised of several physicians and members of the Orlando Republican Executive Committee also converged in the area, where they held a prayer vigil Saturday evening and protested the opposition’s march on Sunday. Florida State Representative Anna Eskamani tells the Ayo & Iken Report that infanticide doesn’t exist and it’s “illegal.” She goes on to explain, “…that type of rhetoric is inflammatory, inaccurate, and fully designed to continue to perpetuate what are myths around abortion access.” Orange County Republican Executive Activist Committee Chair Todd Catella says he is uncompromising when it comes to life. “I’m here today to defend and protect life, and also to support the president’s agenda. Donald J. Trump is 100% pro-life, and the Republican party is 100% pro-life. So, we are here today defending the unborn, those that have rights that aren’t listened to.”
Prior to the event Orlando, we ask Ayo & Iken Attorneys if fathers of unborn children have any rights in deciding the fate of their child under Florida Law. Surprisingly, the answer is no according to attorney Jeana Vogel. “There would nothing we could do to assist the Father in protecting his unborn child,” says Vogel. But she goes on to say, “However, given the current posture many other States have taken, I would also stand willing and able to try to change Florida’s laws and file a case with the Court in an effort to enjoin the Mother from being able to move forward with the abortion and taking the case to appeal and beyond as possible.”
One Ayo & Iken team member commented that a Supreme Court decision post-Roe v. Wade prevents a father from having consent in a woman’s decision to terminate a pregnancy. Gov. Andrew Cuomo of New York According to Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth, 428 U.S. 52 (1976), the spousal consent provision in § 3(3), which does not comport with the standards enunciated in Roe v. Wade, supra, at 410 U. S. 164-165, is unconstitutional, since the State cannot “delegate to a spouse a veto power which the [S]tate itself is absolutely and totally prohibited from exercising during the first trimester of pregnancy.” In essence, “There are no legal mechanisms for the father of an unborn child to challenge the mother’s decision to have an abortion.”
While chanting “We are the people, the mighty, mighty people,” Rep. Eskamani led the group around Lake Eola in an uneventful demonstration. Catella and other pro-life activists held signs and voiced their support of all human life.
One of the most profound moments to take place during the march was an exchange of words between Todd Catella and a vociferous pro-choice activist. As the procession passed by, Catella chanted, “We stand in defense of the unborn.” The marcher responded, “We stand in defense of real people.” And so, the age-old question remains for lawmakers and citizens to resolve – when do the unborn become “real people.”
Tom Lemons here at Eola park in Orlando, and as you can see behind me, there are thousands of protestors that are now making their way through the park. At least two to three thousand people there, so this is a huge response from the community here in Orlando who are supporting the abortion rights, and they’re opposing any legislation that might come this way in Florida. So, we’re going to stand back and take a look this.
Protestors: So we tell them.
Anna Eskamani: We are the people.
Protestors: we are the people.
Anna Eskamani: The mighty, mighty people.
Protestors: The mighty might people.
Anna Eskamani: The mighty, mighty Florida.
Protestors: The mighty, mighty Florida.
Anna Eskamani: Fighting for access.
Protestors: Fighting for access.
Speaker 4: She’s here, she’s organizing it, and she’s taking these banners.
Can you tell me a little bit, I heard a little bit about what you were saying to the other group-
Anna Eskamani: Yes.
But you were saying that this is obviously a non-confrontational rally that you’re putting together here.
Anna Eskamani: Yes.
Now, you said that there are some people that have some skills that you were saying, just in case it gets a little rough out here.
Anna Eskamani: Yeah, absolutely.
Tom Lemons: Tell me what you mean by that.
Well, so, I’m representative Anna Eskamani, I was just elected to Florida house in November, but before I served in the legislature I worked at Planned Parenthood for six years. So at Planned Parenthood, we’re very familiar with the tactics of the opposition, unfortunately, sometimes it can be quite harassing and quite intimidating, and we want to do our part to ensure that we kept the peace here. Everyone has free speech, they deserve to practice the first amendment, but we want to make sure that it’s done in a safe way. So we do have volunteers that are trained to be non-engagement leaders, and so they’re going to do their part to ensure that we keep the peace here today.
Right, and you were saying that you were open to some conversation if this may reach your level in Tallahassee.
Anna Eskamani: Yeah.
Tom Lemons: So tell us a little about how far you might reach that compromise.
I’m proud to say that I’ve had so many conversations with those who oppose access to safe legal abortion. In particular, two folks who used to protest me at Planned Parenthood actually emailed my legislative office, and we set up a meeting in my office and had a 40-minute meeting about abortion access, and ways to reduce the rate of abortion. Unfortunately, for many of those who oppose access to safe legal abortion, it’s very black and white with them, so it’s hard to find compromise, but I tell folks all the time, that if you want to see a decline in the rate of abortion, focus on birth control access, focus on comprehensive sexual health education, focus on access to prenatal and postnatal care, and improving our adoption services, because if you were actually looking to become a birth parent, the resources out there to navigate that are very limited. Majority of the resources online are for those looking to adopt, not those choosing adoption. So we can do better as a state to make sure that those avenues are open as well.
So you’re okay with some limitations, and I guess obviously it’s become a party-line issue in some ways. Have you found that the support is bipartisan in any way with some of the things, some of your ideas, or do you feel that it’s just no abortion, abortion?
So I think it’s important to note that this past legislative session when parental consent legislation was debated and voted on, two Republican women actually voted against the bill. So, Republican women overwhelmingly, once they see how extreme these attacks get will actually put a line in the sand and say that you’ve gone too far. I support any type of regulation on abortion access that’s based on medical standards and guidelines. What I do not support are politically motivated restrictions, which is what we’ve seen across the country, and including in states like Florida.
Tom Lemons: So, you wouldn’t be for a post-term abortion would you?
Anna Eskamani: That’s not a medical term, there’s no such thing.
Tom Lemons: Okay, so after birth? Infanticide?
Anna Eskamani: Does not happen.
Tom Lemons: It doesn’t happen.
That is illegal, and that is illegal in the country, and that type of rhetoric is inflammatory, inaccurate, and fully designed to continue to perpetuate what are myths around abortion access, and actually, 90% of abortion services are obtained in the first trimester. Those that go beyond the first trimester, it’s often down to tragic circumstances, where folks wanted to become parents, and it’s important that we respect these decisions, and ensure that we focus on fetal care, or prevention to even prevent the notion [inaudible 00:04:23].
Tom Lemons: So, that’s just not going to happen here in Florida?
It’s complete rhetoric that we hear from the opposition around bills that are passed in New York. It’s just not true, it’s a complete lie, and I think it’s so important that we ground ourselves in the stories directly impacting people, women who’ve made the decision to have an abortion, and [inaudible 00:04:42] are stories shared by those who have made the decision to end pregnancy.
The group behind me is preparing to march down the street here from Eola park to city hall to show their support for women’s rights.
Protestors: So we tell them. We are the people, we are the people. The mighty, mighty people. The mighty-
Speaker 5: We stand in defense of the unborn.
Speaker 6: And we stand in defense of real people.
Speaker 5: President Trump 2020 will make a difference. MAGA.
Pro-Life activists with the Orange County Republican Executive Committee are scheduled to meet here at Lake Eola Park this evening for a prayer vigil regarding the latest changes in abortion rights in several states across the country.
I’m here with Todd Catella, with the Orange County Republican Executive Committee, and he’s holding a prayer vigil here with several other members of his group at the Lake Eola Bandshell. Todd, tell us what’s going on tonight.
Well, we decided that with the pro-choice that’s going on, there’s going to be about 1100 pro-choice activists that are going to be rallying tomorrow, and the values that that group has is not a Republican value, it’s not a pro-life value, it’s not the kind of value that the Christian faith as a whole has, and we wanted to counter that with tonight a prayer vigil. So, tonight we’re going to spend some time in prayer, we’re sharing some stories right now.
So you think there are going to be legislation that’s going to be brought to Tallahassee this year similar to that that’s been brought forward in Alabama, and Georgia, and Missouri?
Well, to be honest with you, the New York and West Virginia rulings were, New York, said up to the time of the last second you can kill the child. West Virginia said, all right, lay the baby on the table, let the mother decide, and then we’ll decide what we’re going to do. Those two events alone have caused the heartbeat bills, and the Alabama pro-life bill, which is designed to challenge and go all the way [inaudible 00:07:15].
Is this something that your group would accept if there were legislation to maybe regulate the number of weeks before an abortion could be conducted?
That has been a part of the discussion for a long time in the past, and I think we’re at a point now where we’ve got to go to a heartbeat bill.
Tom Lemons: … feel about that?
Well, I’m here today to defend and protect life, and also to support the president’s agenda. Donald J. Trump is 100% pro-life, and the Republican party is 100% pro-life. So we are here today defending the unborn, those that have rights that aren’t listened to.
What do you think about issues, as far as a compromise would go? I know that I’ve talked to some of the people on the opposition, and they believe that they may be open to some compromise as far as the number of weeks, some completely not, but how do you feel about a compromise?
Well, I feel about this is, life is life. Life is the most important thing, so if it’s about life, I’m uncompromising. Now, I support the president’s agenda, and I support what he says. So, ultimately at the end of the day though, life is life, and I’m uncompromising on the issue of life. I stand on the side of life, and that’s where I stand.
So you think there’s going to be some legislation entered this year in Tallahassee that may bring about some change to abortion in Florida?
Well, I certainly hope so, because number one, the Belotti bypass, basically parental notification, didn’t pass before the legislature. I think that it will pass in the upcoming sessions. Also, to the heartbeat bill, some version of it I think will pass. I think again though, is that the Republican party stands on the side of life, and the democratic party stands on the side of hypocritical defense of human rights. They’re interested in defending those rights that are for their political agenda, and their political agenda alone. Meanwhile, the Republican party, we stand solid, we stand united, we stand firm on the side of human rights. Period.
I’m also a former senator from Puerto Rico, member of the Orange County Republican Party, and I am very motivated to be here today to make a stand for those unborn babies that are defenseless. This isn’t infanticide, this is murder, this is no other word for this. It’s very painful, it’s very hurtful, and I’m sure that if God is looking, he’s not happy with this whole thing.
So, as a physician you have to disagree completely with some of their rhetoric that says this is completely a women’s health issue, is that right?
Well, most of them, I would almost 100% of the physicians that I know are on my side on this issue. I think those that have made medicine business are the ones that you’re going to get saying that kind of thing because they make a lot of money from this. But most physicians, I would say every physician is for life. That this went on in the beginning, it was just going to be incest and rape, that’s the way they mentioned it, and it has developed to the point now that they think it’s justified to have a nine-month-old baby who has been viable for already for five months, to have them come out and killed. And then they worry about other crimes and other issues? It’s a sick society, and somebody had to stand up for those babies and to try to fix these things.
Although pro-choice activists vastly outnumbered pro-life supporters during Sunday’s event, their message was no less powerful than those of the opposition. With states across the country considering similar laws to restrict or ban abortion, the debate over Roe Versus Wade could be the dominating topic during the 2020 presidential elections. Reporting from Orlando, I’m Tom Lemons.
The mighty, mighty people. The mighty, mighty people.