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Florida Bound

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Cindy Marie Jenkins

Contributing Writer

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Florida Bound


Once Gov. Ron DeSantis signs Florida's bill banning abortion after 15 weeks from conception, North Carolina will be the closest state offering abortions up to 20 weeks.

As corporations touted their Women’s History Month posts this month, Florida’s Republican Party made its own contribution: passing multiple bills dangerous to women and children. The first was HB5/SB146, which effectively banned abortion after 15 weeks.

Before you assume that the customary exceptions — rape and incest — apply. Don’t.

Republicans eliminated those in this legislation, even though they’ve used these exceptions in previous years as proof that they care about women's health. Now we can finally say out loud that the pro-life movement was never about helping women or fetuses. The history of the Republican Party’s pro-life stance shows that we need to take these lawmakers’ intentions at face value.

This bill is about control.

Abortion is health care. By controlling access to this form of health care, lawmakers ensure that the burden of unwanted pregnancy falls on those who can least afford it. Once Gov. Ron DeSantis signs this bill into law, women who have the least ability to access money or take time off from work or school will end up spending more and perhaps delaying longer to travel to travel to North Carolina, the closest state where abortions are still done up to 20 weeks. Or women may opt for illegal and potentially fatal procedures as occurred all too frequently in the pre-Roe days.

But it doesn’t end there.

Several other bills legislators passed this session clearly make the point about control. Between the “Don’t Say Gay” bill (and, yes, I read the text) and the bills banning any books or lessons that soft-pedal our history with enslavement and the complicated roles many of our revered forefathers had in perpetuating the practice and enslaving others, Florida is tilting toward an authoritarian government, convincing its citizens that censorship and surveillance is how to protect our children.

During Equality Florida’s  “Free to Say Gay Town Hall”, the day after the bill passed the House, the group’s public policy director Jon Harris Mauer called the government’s censorship and surveillance “outrageous.”

I’m a new Orange County Public School parent. I don’t need to control what my children may learn in school. Parenting and teaching are all about relationships — not authoritarian methods to control society's narrative. Apart from age-appropriate parental controls and curation, my husband and I don’t fear what our children may see. We want them to engage with the world around them. We want them to have questions so they can ask us, and we answer them.

You can’t control a child’s world or eventual worldview; you can only equip them to think critically and make good decisions. Even if they hear about sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary school, they’re also bound to notice gay and trans folks holding hands at the supermarket, walking their dogs, at theme parks, behind the fast-food counter, even signing their kids up for the same summer camps.

You can try to shelter children from seeing anything but a heteronormative, chaste world. You might even believe that authoritarian parenting in the classroom will improve their learning environment. Instead, it will most likely create perplexed and ignorant kids with nowhere to turn when they have questions, except to their peers and Google.

Shutting down discussion about sexual orientation or gender identity when kids are older can have tragic outcomes. School is often the only place where a child feels safe to fully be themselves, or where children unsure of their gender identity can confide in a trusted teacher.

This bill is so broad it essentially criminalizes even speaking about what a child might feel and empowers their peers to bully and harass them. By controlling and threatening educators with potential lawsuits, Republicans abandon our gay and trans children; they will have nowhere to turn and no way to voice their true selves.

An estimated 1 in 4 LGBTQ youth between 13 and 24 attempt suicide, according to data from the nonprofit advocacy group  The Trevor Project and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That’s one suicide attempt every 45 seconds in the U.S.

Being gay or trans doesn’t put a child at higher risk for suicide, The Trevor Project notes; gay and trans kids are at higher risk for suicide because they’re bullied and stigmatized for being gay and/or trans.

When Republicans passed this bill, they put their rubber stamp of approval on these LGBTQ suicides. They opened the door to a controlling, overbearing government that dictates to students the kind of people they’re allowed to be, or even speak about.

Republicans want to legislate the free will out of our children — and their parents. They want to control our teachers. They don’t care who dies: not women, not children. Unless, of course, those children are still unborn. Then they have more rights than us all.

Resources for talking to kids about race, gender and sexual orientation:

The 9 Best Children’s Books About Gender Identity

14 Antiracist Books for Kids and Teens Recommended by BIPOC Teachers and Librarians

The Every Body Book: The LGBTQ+ Inclusive Guide for Kids ABout Sex, Gender, Bodies, and Families

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