The fight to preserve abortion rights is at the center of the primary election campaigns in the wake of the US Supreme Court’s decision to strike down the constitutional right to abortion care, with a growing number of state laws banning abortion and severely restricting access.
In separate elections on August 23, Florida voters ousted two officials widely criticized for their views on abortion rights.
A judge in Hillsborough County, Florida, faced widespread condemnation for a decision in January to deny a 17-year-old girl an abortion without her parents’ consent, doubting her “intelligence or credibility” and citing her low grades in school.
On Tuesday night, Judge Jared Smith lost his re-election bid.
Local judicial races typically have low national visibility, but the race between Judge Smith and his opponent, Nancy Jacobs, faced widespread scrutiny amid a nationwide battle for abortion rights and a decision to deny a teenager’s request to seek an abortion without her parents’ permission.
Florida law allows minors to seek a “judicial bypass” and obtain a court’s permission for an abortion if they cannot obtain consent from a parent or guardian.
“The court found her intelligence to be less than average … she claimed her grades were ‘Bs’ during her testimony, her GPA is currently 2.0,” Judge Smith wrote, according to court documents. “Obviously, a ‘B’ average will not equate to a 2.0 GPA.”
An appeals court later reversed the decision, finding that Judge Smith abused his discretion.
In another recent case in the state, a pregnant 16-year-old girl was denied an abortion waiver after a court ruled she was not “sufficiently mature” to make that decision.
The girl, who is “orphaned” and lives with a relative, is pursuing a GED through a program for trauma survivors and is “not ready to have a baby,” and her parents note that they are “fine” with her decision about seeking an abortion, according to court documents.
A three-judge Court of Appeals panel upheld the court’s decision to deny her request.
Elsewhere in Florida, voters ousted state Rep. James Bush, the only Democratic lawmaker in the state legislature who supported a law banning abortion at 15 weeks of pregnancy and legislation opponents have dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill.
His opponent Ashley Ganntt, now the Miami-area representative-elect, said Miami Herald that his vote in support of banning abortion care was “in direct opposition to [her] existence and … bodily autonomy.”
“As a black woman, I was offended when he voted to limit my rights,” she said during a press conference last week. “As a former teacher, I was offended that he voted to inject Tallahassee extremism into our classrooms and deny local control of our school systems.”
Protecting abortion rights is also a leading issue in the Florida governor’s race.
Charlie Crist — who won the Democratic primary for governor to face Republican Ron DeSantis in the fall general election — has made abortion access a key priority of his campaign, even as he has been criticized by opponent Nikki Fried for his record on abortion rights.
“I’ve been pro-choice all my life,” Fried said last month during the only debate in the Democratic primary race. “I have made sure that I have been on the side of women. Charlie can’t say the same.”
Mr Crist responded in a campaign ad claiming he vetoed abortion legislation “to protect your right to choose” and his “perfect record” from the abortion rights groups Planned Parenthood and NARAL.
“Why don’t Republicans like Ron DeSantis honor and respect a woman’s right to choose?” he said during the debate. “A woman’s right to choose is at stake. … I will fight for it.”