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Tampa City Council passes abortion resolution that aims to respect privacy

 Tampa City Council late Thursday night passed a resolution aimed at respecting the privacy of people seeking abortions in the city.
Tampa City Council
Tampa City Council late Thursday night passed a resolution aimed at respecting the privacy of people seeking abortions in the city.

The vote came a day after Mayor Jane Castor said she will not direct police to arrest people who have had abortions that violate the state-mandated 15-week limit.

The Tampa City Council passed a resolution to respect the privacy of people seeking abortions in the city after nearly three hours of debate and public comment.

About 20 Tampa residents, including several health care professionals, told council members at the meeting late last week that they supported the abortion resolution. Only one person spoke against it.

Dr. Micaela Roddy, an internal medicine physician, said the “overturn(ing) of Roe v Wade feels like just another gigantic slap in the face of health care workers and patients. And frankly, we do not have the reserves to weather yet another assault on our our autonomy and our ability to care for our patients.”

“Pregnancy is a physiologic state, which changes how a person's organs function, how their hormones function, and there are many medical conditions in which pregnancy is contraindicated and carrying a pregnancy to term can be fatal, Roddy said. "Not to mention the countless complications which can arise after that Becoming pregnant for which the standard treatment is abortion. And we cannot wait until the condition is deemed to be an emergency. Patients will die. They're already dying and physicians and nurses will be arrested for trying to save them.”

The 5-2 vote comes one day after Mayor Jane Castor said that she will not direct the Tampa Police Department to arrest individuals who have had abortions which violate the newly state-mandated 15-week limit.

Council member Lynn Hurtak, who initially proposed the resolution, actually voted against it. She said language changed by the city's legal counsel "defeats the purpose:"

"I don't think this protects us enough. And honestly, I would just rescind it. But I really feel like everyone and all the citizens need to hear how people feel. I don't think this goes far enough,” Hurtak said.

The final resolution cut wording from Hurtak's proposal that would have made criminalizing abortion the lowest priority for law enforcement, and would see that the city would not fund anti-abortion crisis pregnancy centers. City attorneys also added a statement that Tampa would still defer to federal and state abortion laws.

Several council members indicated that a resolution could “confuse” Tampa residents into thinking it changes law and policy. But as several public commenters noted, the city council previously passing a resolution that is supporting Medicare for all did not trick Tampa residents into thinking the city suddenly had Medicare for all.

Emily Griest, a public school teacher, said she lives in fear after the overturn of Roe V. Wade. She’s the sole income of her household, and could not afford the hospital bills that come with pregnancy. She said her family also struggles with life-threatening pregnancies.

“You right now have the opportunity to make me feel safe in Florida. I have legitimately considered whether this is a state that I will be able to live in that I would want to raise a family and that I could feel safe, eventually, being pregnant," Griest said. "And right now, that answer is no. But you have the opportunity to make Tampa a beacon of hope for women like me.”

Hurtak co-wrote the original abortion resolution with the Democratic Tampa chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America and it was presented to the Tampa City Council for a vote at the City Council meeting on Aug, 4. The City Council moved to table the vote until Aug 18 with only Hurtak voting against delaying a vote.

The original resolution was modeled after the Guarding the Right to Abortion Care for Everyone (GRACE) Act, passed by the city of Austin, Texas, in late July.

Hurtak is the only woman now serving on the city council. She said she understands her constituent's pleas for help in a way other council members do not.

"I am so much less safe than any of my fellow council members, I can go out tonight, I can be raped, I can have to be forced to carry a child against my will," she said.

Council members indicated they may still consider another related ordinance.

In June, the U,.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, a 1973 ruling that established federal protection for abortions. The ruling gave states the power to set their own abortion laws. This year, Florida enacted the 15-week ban; the law is in effect while legal battles continues.

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Daylina Miller is a multimedia reporter for WUSF and Health News Florida, covering health in the Tampa Bay area and across the state.