In an interview with NBC’s Dasha Burns on Monday, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-Fla.) blamed absent fathers for abortions in his state—as if there couldn’t ever be any other reason a woman wouldn’t want to carry a pregnancy in Florida besides the lack of a male romantic partner. “I think a lot of these women, you know, are in very difficult circumstances. They don’t get any support from a lot of the fathers.”
He added: “A lot of them, the number one reason why women choose to have an abortion is because they’re not getting support, and they feel abandoned.”
First of all, I would eat my shoe if DeSantis has ever knowingly spoken to a woman who had an abortion, let alone multiple—let alone asked them why they chose abortion in a way that suggested he actually wanted to hear the answer. Secondly, while the infantilization of pregnant people is nothing new, using paternal abandonment as a way to justify your anti-abortion policy feels novel this election season. DeSantis’s logic takes away the agency of the patient who may not want to pregnant for any number of reasons—health reasons, economic reasons, social reasons, just-not-ready-for kids reasons—all of which are valid!
Of course, none of the reasons actually matter to anti-abortion politicians running for president. In April, DeSantis signed a six-week abortion ban into law, which is a backup in case the state’s current abortion law, which allows the procedure up to 15 weeks, is upheld in an ongoing legal battle. DeSantis and Florida’s policies are having ripple effects on the entire country: Abortion providers as far away as Michigan are now having to treat Floridians due to a dearth of health care in their own state.
DeSantis told Burns that he wouldn’t punish patients seeking abortion—because they’re already feeling abandoned. “Now, in Florida we’ve provided support and we’ve put our money where our mouth is, but at the end of the day, you know, I would not support any penalties on a woman,” he said.
Criminalizing abortion patients is one of the few rubicons anti-abortion politicians seem hesitant to cross, so that’s not surprising. But I’m not sure what type of aid he’s talking about—supporting people who are forced to stay pregnant means actually providing quality healthcare in their communities. But Orlando’s Sun Sentinel found that nearly 20 percent of its counties are maternal healthcare deserts, meaning there are either few or zero hospitals providing obstetrics.
DeSantis also continued to try to dodge questions about whether or not he’d back a federal abortion ban, which has emerged as a sticking point for some anti-abortion groups. When Burns asked if he’d veto such a ban, he shifted focus (saying a federal ban won’t “see a lot of mileage in Congress”); offered vague platitudes (“We will be a pro-life president and we will support pro-life policies”); and went into a long diatribe about the false narrative about how people are allowed to have abortions up until birth. (They are not.)
DeSantis is doing a dance many other Republicans are doing: He tries to seem reasonable and pro-women by saying he doesn’t want to criminalize patients and blaming the fathers for not sticking around. But in the same interview, he demonizes abortion seekers by describing scenarios that just don’t happen. Perhaps should consider just listening to the people trying to access care.