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Unjust attacks on reproductive rights undermine traditional Republican values | Opinion

An anti-abortion protester holds a sign while standing outside the Florida Supreme Court after the Court heard arguments on the proposed abortion amendment Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024 in Tallahassee, Fla. (Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)
An anti-abortion protester holds a sign while standing outside the Florida Supreme Court after the Court heard arguments on the proposed abortion amendment Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2024 in Tallahassee, Fla. (Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)
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As a lifelong Republican and a believer in the fundamental values of limited government intrusion and individual privacy, the recent course taken by my party in implementing severe abortion bans is a stark departure from the principles I hold dear. Frankly, I am stunned by the fact that in 2023, American women are still having to fight for the unalienable right to govern one’s own body that American men take for granted.

I am a first-generation American. I was raised by freedom-loving parents who fought hard to provide a better life for our family after fleeing communist Cuba in the 1960s. It is thanks to them that I learned firsthand the significance of freedom and a just government. My journey to corporate attorney and four-term state representative was shaped by the foundational Republican values of individual liberty, personal responsibility and minimal government intrusion in our business and personal affairs.

However, the recent enactment of stringent abortion bans in Florida represent a grievous overstep of governmental authority into the deeply personal realm of women’s reproductive rights. These bans not only curtail essential health care but also violate the cherished right to privacy, an aspect enshrined in our state’s constitution since 1980.

Carlos Lacasa served as a state representative from Miami from 1994-2002. (courtesy, Carlos Lacasa)
Carlos Lacasa served as a state representative from Miami from 1994-2002. (courtesy, Carlos Lacasa)

Data shows that these prohibitions starkly contradict the will of the people.

According to  cited by national publications such as ,, and , 64% of U.S. adults from diverse backgrounds, faiths and political affiliations believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. And polling commissioned by Florida Women’s Freedom Coalition shows that 72% of Floridians support a woman’s reproductive privacy rights without governmental interference. The denial of this access, even in the face of horrific scenarios such as rape, incest or life-threatening complications, disregards the complex realities faced by women as well as their basic civil right to control their own bodies. I agree that the unborn have civil rights too, but in my mind those rights attach at viability. Certainly, this is a question for the electorate.

The Dobbs decision that reversed Roe v. Wade was controversial. From a practical standpoint however, I believe that our republic is better served by leaving this highly divisive matter to the states. For Florida, the 2024 ballot question will let the voters, not politicians, decide where a woman’s reproductive rights begin and end.

The prospect of a statewide plebiscite will allow citizens to express their stance on this civil rights matter, transcending the influence of a court or the Legislature swayed by special interest groups and the religious right.

This is why I support grassroots groups like . The bipartisan coalition is part of a statewide paid petition-gathering operation that is working to engage with independent, non-partisan, Republican and Democratic voters to create a constitutional amendment barring restrictions on abortion within 24 weeks of pregnancy, what is widely considered to be the threshold of viability.

As I reflect on the historical struggle for women’s rights, I recognize that the current scenario echoes past battles for civil liberties. Since the founding of our republic, the principle of equal protection under the law has always been heavily nuanced. It is a wonder that women had to fight for the right to vote 131 years after the effective date of our Constitution.

In the face of the biggest and most intrusive level of government in our history, we Americans are rediscovering the importance of privacy in our lives. The juxtaposition of fighting for freedom from lockdowns, resisting compulsory vaccinations and asserting the right to own firearms while denying women the freedom to make their own health care choices underscores the inconsistency within the GOP’s agenda.

Moreover, our party has always resisted the social engineering tendencies of the American left. Morality cannot be legislated without an overwhelming consensus of the governed. Such a consensus does not exist here. As committed to the life of the unborn as we may be, the moral implications of a terminated pregnancy must remain personal to the mother, at least until viability, if we are to strike a balance between the interests of the living and the unborn — balance that our founding principles of liberty and equality demand.

As someone deeply committed to traditional Republican values, I urge my colleagues to reconsider this misguided attack on abortion access. Not only is it constitutionally unsound, but it also detracts from crucial objectives and priorities.

In the aftermath of recent painful and consequential election losses for our party, we must focus on developing a unified strategy as we move forward, instead of undermining the core principles of individual liberty and personal responsibility that our party claims to champion.

Carlos Lacasa served as a state representative from Miami from 1994-2002. He chaired the House Appropriations Committee in his final term. He currently advises the Florida Women’s Freedom Coalition.

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