'It's Cruel and Unusual Punishment': State Senator Lauren Book Talks Abortion And Human Trafficking

May 17, 2019
Originally published on May 16, 2019 8:07 pm

Some Florida lawmakers are responding to the passage of Alabama’s new abortion law, which would ban  abortion in almost any circumstance and make providing the procedure a felony. State Senator Lauren Book, D-Plantation, released a statement yesterday in opposition to the law.

"Alabama is waging a war on women with their ban on abortion care: women who miscarry will be left in fear of imprisonment, physicians can be jailed for 99 years for providing life-saving medical care, and victims of rape and incest will be forced to carry any pregnancy resulting from their assault to term — no exceptions," Book said in a statement on Wednesday.

Senator Book, who has openly said she's a rape survivor, has been especially outspoken about womens' reproductive rights. During this year's legislative session, when Florida Repubicans announced legislation that would require minors to receive parental consent prior to receiving an abortion, Book argued the bill was punitive against minors. Legislators also introduced a bill that would limit the chances to abort once doctors detect a fetal heartbeat. Neither bill was ultimately successful. 

Sen. Book spoke with Sundial’s Luis Hernandez about the new Alabama law and steps she’s taking to prevent similar legislation in Florida. 

 This has been edited lightly for clarity. 

WLRN: Under what circumstances would it be legal for a woman to have an abortion in Alabama now? 

Book: The circumstances would surround the health of the woman. And so if it were an ectopic pregnancy, an abortion may be performed. But other than that, there is no exemption for rape or for incest. Nothing else is contemplated. And what's truly terrifying is that these providers will be sentenced under the felony guidelines in the bill up to 99 years for performing an abortion, for providing life saving medical care to women in the state of Alabama. It is unconscionable that this is where we are in our world. And more terrifying than any of that is that women make up to 51 percent of the population of Alabama but there were only four women in that Senate chamber representing them. And it is truly horrifying. 

You want to craft legislation for next year's session [in Florida] that would require equal representation when it comes to new laws restricting access to abortion. Can you give us a preview of what that would look like? 

Absolutely. American democracy is built on the value of representation. The joint resolution really stems from that core value. [The legislation I am crafting says] there will be no vote about women without women... It would require that a measure be put onto the ballot to empower Floridian [women]. If we're going to look at women's reproductive health care and their rights, then [at least] 50% of those [who] are making those laws and making those decisions [must] be women... Women should be sitting at the table, helping to make those decisions. 

That all comes down to who's being voted into office. If you don't have enough women in office then it can never be, it can never be brought up? 

Correct. That is correct. 

During the last legislative session Senator Lauren Book also pushed for a new law establishing a database of individuals convicted of soliciting prostitution or trafficking sex workers. The law currently awaits Gov. Ron DeSantis’ signature. She explained the law on Sundial. 

There are a number of facets in your the legislation you sponsored addressing human trafficking in Florida. Let's try to hit a couple of these. One of them being proposed is, creating a "Soliciting for Prostitution Public Database." Is this a list basically of "Johns" and "pimps?" What would this entail? 

So one of the things that we tried to tackle after visiting different places throughout the state and looking at the issue of human trafficking, is the issue of supply and demand. We know that there is one simple rule, when there's no demand there's no supply. Humans buying humans for the purpose of sex is a heinous act that occurs with repeat offenders. And a study by the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Center found that 70 percent of sex buyers want to stop. And then we have a coupling 2011 study that was done at Boston University that asked sex buyers what would get them to stop purchasing sex. And it was some form of public registry. Now that's not what is contained within this bill. This is a database of pimps and johns. Those that purchase sex and those that pimp individuals in this universe. Human trafficking is one of the largest growing criminal enterprises in the world. In fact, it's actually it's second to the drug trafficking trade and it's a 32 billion dollar industry.

Do you think there will be a time that prostitution would be considered as a thing to be made legal in the state of Florida, to give workers protections? 

We are a state that is hugely diverse. I don't know that we are going to get to that time but if I had a crystal ball I would also know how to solve a lot of the issues that exist in our state and in our world. I heard from a lot of the consensual sex workers in that industry and we worked really hard to try to sit at the table to come up with a policy and a measure that would include some of the things that they brought. Because it is important that we make sure that everyone is represented and who better to know what's going on in that world and in that industry then consensual sex workers. 

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