St. Petersburg city council advances abortion travel funding for residents

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The City Council of St. Petersburg, Florida, has advanced a funding request that would allocate $50,000 to pay the travel expenses of city residents who are seeking abortion. The council also advanced a resolution reaffirming a “right to privacy in women’s health care decisions.” Both measures were introduced by council member Richie Floyd in October.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, all three council members sitting on the Health, Energy, Resilience, and Sustainability committee voted in favor of the request, which would take money from the city’s general fund and give it to the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund to be used to help women wishing to travel to abort children older than 15 weeks gestation, which is the current cutoff per state law.

“As of right now, reproductive health care is under attack in this country,” Floyd previously said in an interview with WMNF. “I think it’s really important that the city shows that we don’t support that, and we want to make sure that people can overcome hurdles to getting reproductive healthcare.”

Floyd also noted that while the city council passed a resolution in 2020 stating its support for abortion, he believes an additional resolution is necessary to affirm that there will be no documentation or recordkeeping on women seeking abortion. This would mean abortion would be the only “medical” procedure for which no records are kept — a potentially dangerous proposition for women.

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I’ve been working on this for a long time and trying to find out what the most strong message we can send as a city was legally in the state,” he said. “It did take a while for me to come to the conclusion of what was legally possible and build support for it,” he added.

Although a 2016 state law prohibits the use of taxpayer funding for abortion, city council members believe they have found a workaround in donating to the Tampa Bay Abortion Fund, because the fund isn’t directly affiliated with any abortion business. Chief Assistant City Attorney Jeannine Williams believes in an interpretation of the law that allows taxpayer funding for this purpose, noting that she is ready to defend the city’s potential use of the money should it be challenged in court. “We believe in our interpretation. It wouldn’t be a successful lawsuit,” she said.

Floyd reiterated this support. “We’re perfectly within our legal bounds to do this. If someone wants to cause an issue about it, you know, that’s on them,” he said. “They’re going to be wasting their time and money, in my opinion.”

“State funds, government funds are going towards the criminalization of abortion, and we can’t really do much to stop that,” he went on. “But what we can do is donate city money to help people get the reproductive health care that they need in a legal way, and overcome the logistic hurdles and make sure that less people are criminalized.”

In order for the funding request to be formalized, it needs to pass a full council vote and get approval from Mayor Ken Welch.

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