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Florida Democrats say 'all options are on the table' after abortion meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris

'It was very much a holistic conversation,' incoming Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell says
Posted at 5:07 PM, Jul 15, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-15 17:07:59-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida legislative Democrats are trying to figure out what comes next after meeting with Vice President Kamala Harris in Orlando on Thursday.

For about an hour, the lawmakers and Harris discussed abortion access in Florida and how to protect it if state courts uphold a new 15-week ban with few exceptions. Members of the caucus said Friday they felt heard.

"It was very much a holistic conversation," incoming Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell said. "The vice president took feedback from us in terms of the ideas that we have."

Driskell said the administration was eyeing numerous ways to use its authority to preserve abortion access beyond its recent executive order. Options included protecting patient travel between states or potentially offering services on federal property.

Florida House Minority Leader Designate Fentrice Driskell
Incoming Florida House Minority Leader Fentrice Driskell shares some of the details from her visits this week with Vice President Kamala Harris.

"The feeling that I got ... was that all options are on the table for this administration," Driskell said. "They want to be thoughtful. They want to be careful. They want to make maneuvers that are above legal reproach so that these are protections that can be lasting."

The administration has yet to announce further plans.

Driskell said officials were still gathering ideas and working on a national strategy.

Anti-abortion groups, meanwhile, remained confident Florida's new restrictions would maintain.

"The Supreme Court was very clear," said John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council. "This is a matter for the states, and there's nothing that [President Biden] can do to sign into law by himself, without Congress, that is going to affect that."

 John Stemberger, head of  Florida Family Policy Council
John Stemberger thinks GOP lawmakers in Florida will go further next year to limit abortion access in the state.

Stemberger is a conservative advocate heading the FFPC. Instead of greater access to abortion, he foresaw greater restrictions in the future.

Following this year's approval of a 15-week ban, Stemberger thinks the GOP-majority will go further next year. That's despite DeSantis having yet to give a full-throated endorsement of additional restrictions and the state courts still mulling the current law’s legality.

"We pray that someday in our society will look back upon this, just in the same way we look back on slavery, and say this is horrific," Stemberger said. "How can we have ever done this to a class of people?"

In the end, it may all hinge on Congress.

On Friday, the U.S. House voted to restore abortion rights nationwide. But— at the moment — Democrats lack the votes needed in the Senate to make it happen.

Many in the party hope that will change during the midterm elections. Democrats have made abortion access a key issue heading into the November midterm elections, believing it would drive voters to the polls. Republicans are framing the election as a referendum on Biden's first two years.