Florida House speaker apologizes for calling pregnant women host bodies in abortion debate

Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva, left, talks with CBS Miami’s Jim DeFede about abortion and repeatedly refers to pregnant women as “host bodies.” (Photo: CBS Miami)

Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva, R-Miami Lakes, has apologized following a Thursday night interview with CBS Miami’s Jim DeFede about abortion, during which he repeatedly referred to pregnant women as “host bodies.” According to Oliva, he used the term multiple times in “an attempt to use terminology found in medical ethics writings with the purpose of keeping the discussion dispassionate.” But, he now realizes, the phrase “had the exact opposite effect.”

Florida House speaker apologizes for calling pregnant women 'host bodies' in abortion debate“I apologize for having caused offense, my aim was the contrary,” he said in a statement. “This is and will continue to be our society’s greatest challenge. I strongly believe both mother and child have rights, and the extent and balance of those rights remain in question. I regret my wording has distracted from the issue. My apologies to all.”

Oliva’s comments included the following: “As technology moves along, a human body can exist outside of its host body earlier and earlier, and so then one has to think, until what time does the host body have veto power over this other life? … The question is: What is the value of that life? And is it subordinate to the value of its host body?”

His words were quickly criticized by Democrats.

Florida Democratic Party Chair Terry Rizzo called them “hurtful, dehumanizing and misogynistic,” adding, “You’d expect to hear this offensive language in The Handmaid’s Tale  – not from the speaker of the Florida House of Representatives.”

When questioned about using the term “host body” during the original interview, Oliva said, “We can either use technical terms on both sides, or we can just use both lives. I’d be happy to do either. The real question is, there are two lives. There is a weight and a quality to both. Both need protection. What is that balance?”

A number of bills have been filed by Republicans to restrict abortions, including the “fetal heartbeat” bill, which would ban abortions once a fetus’s heartbeat has been detected through a vaginal ultrasound, which can happen as early as six weeks.

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