Manatee County to Explore Unprecedented Abortion Restrictions

Dennis "Mitch" Maley
BRADENTON — At Tuesday's meeting, first-term Manatee County Commissioner James Satcher got unanimous support from fellow board members to have the county attorney's office research a potential "heartbeat" ordinance that would severely limit access to medical abortions within the county.

Florida law currently limits abortions to the first 24-weeks after conception and no county or municipality has attempted to challenge that limit. In Florida, state statutes preempt local ordinances, but Satcher (R-Dist 1) says he wants to model the ordinance after one in Lubbock, Texas, and seek similar assistance from the Florida Legislature in allowing it to exceed state limits. 

Lubbock’s ordinance, approved by voters after its council rejected it for fear of costly legal fights, actually bans abortion, though it acknowledges that penalties cannot be enforced without the United States Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade. It also empowers private citizens to sue abortion providers or those who aid one.

Last month, Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed a restrictive abortion bill into law that prevented abortions after a heartbeat can be detected, which often occurs in the embryonic stage before a woman even knows she’s pregnant. It is unique in that rather than the government enforcing the law, private citizens are empowered to sue the provider or anyone that helps a woman to get an abortion. 

According to the Texas Tribune, "supporters of the bill hope this novel provision will trip up legal challenges to the legislation, as without state officials enforcing the ban, there will be nobody for pro-women's rights groups to sue." The state statute also allows those who donate to abortion providers to be sued by family members of the aborted fetus or embryo, expressed as "the unborn child’s mother, father, grandparents, siblings, and half-siblings." The law provides exceptions in the event that the mother’s health is endangered but not for victims of rape or incest.

The Texas law also specifically empowers municipal governments to enact laws that are stricter than the state statute. Satcher says he hopes to convince the Florida Legislature to enact a similar exemption and has already approached Florida Senator Jim Boyd and state rep Tommy Gregory. 

In 2013, North Dakota became the first state to pass a heartbeat law, but it was ruled unconstitutional by the SCOTUS in 2015 under the precedent set by the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade. 

Lubbock’s law was not the first in Texas, however, it was the first in a city that actually had an abortion clinic. Planned Parenthood, which operates the facility, sued, claiming the ordinance was unconstitutional, in that it violated the provisions of Roe v. Wade. However, a federal judge dismissed the suit on June 2, citing a lack of jurisdiction.

Tuesday’s vote only authorizes the county attorney’s office to commit resources to research the legal potential for such a statute. Any such ordinance, once drafted, would have to go through the public hearing process and come back for a final vote. Commissioners Vanessa Baugh (R-Dist 5) and Kevin Van Ostenbridge (R-Dist 3) offered full-throated support for Satcher’s request. Even Reggie Bellamy, the board’s lone Democrat, was quick to lend his vote. 

Republicans Misty Servia and Carol Whitmore could find themselves in a complicated political situation, should a draft proposal come to a vote before the board. Both are expected to face special-interest-backed primary challenges in 2022 and would be all but certain to face PAC-financed attack ads were they to vote against the measure. 

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Reader Comments
Dee Dee
JUN 18, 2021  •  Since when is this county government business? How much more time will be wasted by these new commissioners? They are big on property rights but then want to restrict women’s personal rights. Really? Old white men making medical choices for women, what could be wrong with that?
Dee Dee
JUN 16, 2021  •  Since when is this county government business? How much more time will be wasted by these new commissioners? They are big on property rights but then want to restrict women’s personal rights. Really? They should be allowed to do this on the day they can actually show up with a real vagina!
Nell McPhillips
JUN 14, 2021  •  I understand a woman’s right to her own body but I also understand the embryo in the womb will if allowed become a child and potentially a female who should also have her right to choose life or death. Even if a male develops he too has a right to choose. The embryo that grows within a woman’s body is a human being with their own rights yet many of you want to terminate their rights. We have laws that protect eggs of birds, people that protect feral cats, people that rescue Pelicans. Why can’t we have people willing to protect the life of the unborn and fight for these rights. Regardless of what you think of our Commisioners and their placement by big money we all should have the right to choose including the unborn.
Michael Polin
JUN 13, 2021  •  These same yokels who didn't want the government to mandate mask-wearing during a deadly pandemic, now want the government to mandate to women what to do with their bodies. I challenge anyone to explain that logic to me. Do these people understand the meaning of hypocrisy? (I doubt it).
Michael Polin
JUN 13, 2021  •  The same yokels who didn't want the government to mandate mask-wearing during a pandemic, now want the government to mandate to women what to do with their bodies. I challenge anyone to explain that logic to me. Do these people understand the concept of hypocrisy? (Probably not).
Agatha Mantanes
JUN 13, 2021  •  What surprises me the most is animal activists who believe in veganism for all and not harming any of our animals promote abortions. I am a fierce animal advocate and believe in no-kill. No-kill to me means not killing anything including human babies. Why would someone who is an advocate of animals think it's ok to harm human babies? Now I know a lot of animal advocates do it for the fame and for being thought of as good people by others Well advocating that it's OK for babies to be Aborted at birth. We live in a world that makes no sense and we have to make sense out of it ourselves.
Amy Hibberd
JUN 13, 2021  •  Just. Wow...at what point did some local county commissioner with a beard give himself the right to make a medical decision for a woman he has never met and while he has no plan to support her or her unintended pregnancy? Talk about government overreach. Thought Roe Vs. Wade settled this long ago. Note: Not one of these politically motivated money hungry hacks has a single plan for supporting this army of unwanted children. How many babies is this jerk planning on taking into his home? Answer: Not a single one.
Brent Marlow
JUN 13, 2021  •  These same religious kooks were all for the state telling local government entities that they didn't have the legal right to require a piece of cloth on your face during a global health crisis. Now they think a county bocc should be able to govern women's reproductive health decisions? If they only cared about children this much after they're born. What hypocrisy! It's the American Taliban folks.
Sammy Mann
JUN 13, 2021  •  "Republicans Misty Servia and Carol Whitmore could find themselves in a complicated political situation, should a draft proposal come to a vote before the board. Both are expected to face special-interest-backed primary challenges in 2022 and would be all but certain to face PAC-financed attack ads were they to vote against the measure. " - well maybe voters will finally wake up to special interest swaying OUR voter RIGHTS in the hands of money hungery Whitmore and Servia instead of the interest of the people that are full time residents. Whitmore always denies taking money from developers eh! Well where is the 'special interest backed party' pocket full coming from *sigh* WAKE UP VOTERS - ASSIGN POSITIONS TO REAL COMMUNITY LEADERS, NOT PAYCHECK GRABBERS!
Al Horrigan
JUN 13, 2021  •  Does it surprise anyone that this level of self-righteous, arrogance and ignorance is alive and well on the Manatee County BOCC, in the 21st Century? James Satcher was a leader in the debate that people had a right to not wear a mask, thereby placing others at risk of getting Covid and dying. Yet, today this religious zealot wants to force a woman who is the victim of rape or incest to carry a child to term and deposit it in the child recycle bin as she leaves the hospital. Where does he and the other members get off demanding their right to place others in the public at risk of serious illness and death by not wearing a mask and then trying to tell a woman what she can do with her body. RELIGION AND A PERSONS RELIGIOUS BELIEF HAS NO PLACE IN GOVERNMENT POLICY IT IS PROHIBITED BY THE CONSTITUTION!
Al Horrigan
JUN 13, 2021  •  Does it surprise anyone that this level of self-righteous, arrogance and ignorance is alive and well on the Manatee County BOCC, in the 21st Century? James Satcher was a leader in the debate that people had a right to not wear a mask, thereby placing others at risk of getting Covid and dying. Yet, today this religious zealot wants to force a woman who is the victim of rape or incest to carry a child to term and deposit it in the child recycle bin as she leaves the hospital. Where does he and the other members get off demanding their right to place others in the public at risk of serious illness and death by not wearing a mask and then trying to tell a woman what she can do with her body. RELIGION AND A PERSONS RELIGIOUS BELIEF HAS NO PLACE IN GOVERNMENT POLICY IT IS PROHIBITED BY THE CONSTITUTION!


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