Florida Governor Ron DeSantis attended an anti-choice gala hosted by an extremely conservative Christian group and yet spent very little time talking about the issue of abortion during his speech.
At the Florida Family Policy Council gala Saturday night, the Republican governor’s address lasted approximately 40 minutes, but only two minutes of his remarks were spent on abortion, according to Politico. Those two minutes were spent touting legislation he signed into law last month banning the procedure after six weeks gestation, one of the most restrictive laws in the nation, which opponents say is effectively an outright ban when combined with existing state law.
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“We believe that everybody counts, everybody’s special, and our Heartbeat Protection Act shows that we say what we mean and we mean what we say,” DeSantis said, mentioning the abortion ban. “And that’s a landmark piece of legislation for this state and I was happy to be able to sign that provision into law.”
DeSantis continued, “But we also understand that there’s much more to do.”
The governor may be avoiding espousing too much on the issue because while it may be a winning topic in a Republican primary, it can be divisive in a general election as some voters are expressing concern at Republican efforts to severely restrict access to abortion care. DeSantis has used abortion to differentiate himself from rival Donald Trump, calling out Trump for criticizing Florida’s abortion ban. In an interview last week with online news outlet The Messenger, the former president said that “many people within the pro-life movement feel” that the Florida law is “too harsh.” (Trump later that week claimed he was responsible for the overturning of Roe v. Wade that ended federal protections for abortion rights.)
“I was proud to do it,” the governor said last week when discussing his state’s abortion ban. “[Trump] won’t answer whether he would sign it or not.”
Responding to Politico regarding DeSantis mostly avoiding the abortion issue, DeSantis spokesperson Jeremy Redfern said, “He covered his entire policy agenda, including the Heartbeat Protection Act. I suggest you go watch it again.”
Abortion is not the only issue DeSantis has used to stand out to the right of the former president. A super PAC supporting DeSantis blasted Trump for favoring “gun control” when Trump defended a ban he implemented as president on bump stocks that can be attached to a semiautomatic rifle, enabling it to fire more rapidly.
“Trump the gun grabber doesn’t deserve a second chance,” the group said in an ad that ran last month.
During his Saturday night speech, DeSantis also attacked Trump (and President Joe Biden) for supporting covid-19 vaccines. DeSantis has stood stridently against vaccines and mandates. “The way they weaponized these covid vaxxes was a massive incursion into our freedoms,” DeSantis said, adding, “We can never allow ‘Warp Speed’ to trump informed consent,” a not-so-subtle invoking of his rival’s name.
Desantis takes shots at both Trump & Biden on vaccines: “The way they weaponized these covid vaxxes was a massive incursion into our freedoms .. We can never allow ‘Warp Speed’ to trump informed consent.” (He used the word ‘trump’ intentionally). pic.twitter.com/0RZWVpBNrx
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) May 21, 2023
At least one attendee was not impressed by DeSantis’ stump speech-like address. “I really felt like I’d heard that speech before,” a Florida pastor who attended the gala told the New York Times.
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