On top of gutting bright futures, suppressing the right to vote for students and other minorities, sending our tuition rates sky high, and cutting funding to public universities like ours, this legislature also proposed a total of eighteen bills last session that were intended to restrict our access to basic sexual and reproductive health care, and take basic reproductive choice away from Florida women. Five of these bills were passed. That is five bills too many. We often hear our legislature and governor say that they are working to create jobs and to stimulate our economy. They repeat this empty rhetoric again and again, but we are not blind to their actions – actions that tell a very different story.
Today is World AIDS Day, a perfect day to remind our legislature that issues of health care and issues of choice affect young people disproportionately. When at least half of all new HIV cases occur in people under the age of 25, and when florida has the third highest HIV rate in the country, their votes against education and health care are nothing short of criminal. UCF recently ranked 91st out of one hundred in a study of university sexual health care and education. Hey UCF Board of Trustees, Hey President Hitt, hey CFLD, what are you going to do about it? The people in this building love to talk about the economy, about competitiveness, about growth – but we know that only growing their profits, not growing our community, not growing our future. We are not oblivious to their doublespeak and outright lies.
The agenda for this meeting of the central florida legislative delegation includes a presentation on business climate and competitiveness. Hey Haridopolos, how does taking away our access to affordable health care help the business climate?
The agenda for this meeting also includes a presentation on innovation and economic development. Hey Speaker Cannon, tell us - how does forcing women to undergo unwanted ultrasounds stimulate economic development?
Some would have us believe that access to health care, accurate information, and choice are not economic issues, or that they are unconnected to Florida’s ten point six unemployment rate, unrelated to the fact that 23 percent of florida’s children live in poverty. Hey CFLD, why don’t you tell any college student faced with paying for birth control or testing out of pocket that access to health care is not an economic issue. Please, tell any florida woman who is forced to pay out of pocket for an ultrasound that she does not want, and that she does not need, that the right to choose is not an economic issue. Ask any of us out here today what we think of your efforts to create jobs, and you’ll get a very different story from the one you tell to each other behind closed doors.
We are finished with sitting silent at the feet of those supposed job creators, waiting for them to employ us out of mercy. We are finished with believing the assurances of legislators and a governor who say one thing and do the opposite. We are finished with tolerating politicians who function solely to oil the gears of the profit machine, and to line their own pockets in the process. We are finished with allowing their failures to define our futures. We are aware of what they have taken from us, we are aware of the things they still want from us, we are not alone, and we are watching very closely.