On Thursday afternoon, LaQuinta Alexander with local activist groups Organize Now and Florida Institute for Reform and Empowerment (F.I.R.E.) traversed the Lynx bus stop station downtown with her associates, handing out cupcakes and promoting awareness of HB 1411, which will cut off funding to places that provide abortions.
The law goes into effect July 1. And those using the bus station or the nearby SunRail, Alexander reasoned, were those who would most likely be affected by the bill.
She said they were mostly very concerned – some didn’t take the cupcakes but were very interested in the bill and how it would affect them.
“A lot of people were concerned,” she said. “A lot of people didn’t know. They were worried that their health care center would shut down.”
In response to concerns about where women would get essential health care needs – pap smears, STD screenings, mammograms and more – the state issued a list of other places they could get those services.
The list included “schools, dental care offices and business offices,” according to Alexander.
On Tuesday, Alexander and others from Organize Now went to Apopka Dental Care, one of the places listed as a health care alternative for women in need, and asked for service. What they found, Alexander said, proved their point.
“The staff could not help us,” she said. “They were confused. These places – elementary schools and high schools and dental clinics – are not equipped to help us.”
Alexander said the law will disproportionately affect communities of color and poor communities where clinics are located. Though the state has offered a list of alternatives to places that may be affected by the bill, Alexander said many people will be inconvenienced if they have to drive further than they used to for health care services.
“It’s an insult for someone who lives in the area,” she said. “Because okay, my health clinic just got shut down, because they provide abortion services. Now I’ve got to go 30 miles up the street to the closest dental clinic who can’t even provide us with the services we need.”
But what could really solve the myriad social issues surrounding abortion, she said, was better education, and starting it early.
“Start by the schools,” she said. “Sex education in depth, in elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools, where people understand what abortions are, family planning, STD screenings, LGBTQ, people learning about sex and gender roles – things of that nature will really prevent, and or decrease, the amount of unplanned pregnancies as well as STDs within the state of Florida.”
She also said while she supported peoples’ freedom of speech, the stigma against those who choose to have abortions was counterproductive and damaging.
“People need to understand that,” she said. “Women should not be judged or condemned for a choice they have made. So if they go in for an abortion, there should not be people outside calling them murderers, or condemning or judging them for a choice they made themselves, that clearly affects their lifestyle.”