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'It's A Complex Issue': Incoming Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva On Abortion

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Florida House Speaker Jose Oliva describes himself as a small government, conservative who believes people should be allowed to live their lives as they see fit.

"I think people should be able to make the decisions that they would like to make for themselves," he explained. "I don't want to encumber someone's ability to make their decisions. I don't want to tell anyone how to live their lives."

When asked about abortion, the Miami Lakes Republican said the issue was more complicated.

"Well the challenge there is that there are two lives involved," he said. "So, where I believe that we should stay out of people's lives, I don't believe that people's lives should be taken. It's a complex issue because one has to think, well there's a host body and that host body has to have a certain amount of rights because at the end of the day it is that body that that carries this entire other body to term. But there is an additional life there."

"And the question that we have to ask ourselves is: What is the limit to which we are going to give one person complete power over the life of another?"

Oliva's use of the clinical term "host body" in describing a woman did not appear to be accidental. He used it five times during the interview.



For instance, while discussing setting limits on abortions based on viability, Oliva said: "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 phrase came up again when he declared that life begins at conception.

"Science believes that," he said. "I mean the only definition of science of life is something that grows. From the moment that conception occurs there begins to be growth. And so scientifically that's what it is. But that's not the question. The question is: What is the value of that life? And is it subordinate to the value of its host body?"

When he was asked about the term "host body," and whether it is demeans women, Oliva said he was just trying to be technically accurate in his language.

"You understand that when this discussion is being had, the fetus is also a person and that is being seen as a fetus," he said. "And so 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?"

After his comments were first broadcast, Oliva issued a statement, apologizing for using the term "host body."

"In a recent interview where the very controversial topic of abortion was raised I used the term 'host' to describe a pregnant woman. It was an attempt to use terminology found in medical ethics writings with the purpose of keeping the discussion dispassionate. The reaction undoubtedly shows it had the exact opposite effect. I apologize for having caused offense, my aim was the contrary. This is and will continue to be our societies 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 made it clear during the interview, restricting abortion was not one of his priorities. He said he is focused instead on bringing down the cost of healthcare.

"Without a doubt the costs of healthcare are a runaway train," he said. "When I was elected in 2011 it was about 33 percent of our budget which is significant. Of course this year will be about 48 percent. It's growing at a rate faster than anything else, certainly faster than revenues. And still we have 600,000 people without coverage."

Nevertheless, Oliva acknowledged given some of the abortion laws that are being proposed around the country and the possibility the Supreme Court may weigh in on historic rulings such as Roe v. Wade, he expected the issue of abortion to be part of this year's legislative session, which starts on Tuesday.

Oliva said he will support bills that would create a so-called "cooling off period," which would delay a woman from receiving an abortion. He would also require the woman be given "information" that might ultimately affect her decision.

"I would support things that are consistent with other laws," Oliva said. "So, in the state of Florida you cannot get a marriage license without a cooling off period of a couple of days just to make sure that two adults, two capable adults are required to take some time. You're required to take a certain amount of time before you buy a firearm just in the event that you are making a bad decision for yourself."

He said he doesn't know why some people would oppose a similar law when it comes to abortion. "We feel that it is an offense to ask someone before ending another life to take a time and think about it to fully understand what it is," he said.

Asked if such a law assumes the woman hasn't already weighed her options, wrestled with her choices, and made a decision that is in her best interest, Oliva responded: "And the same argument can be made for a marriage license, same argument could be made for the purchase of a gun. We're making assumptions that perhaps we probably should not make."

It is not clear how far these bills will likely go this year. Typically they make their way through the House and facing a tougher reception in the Florida Senate.

(More of the interview will be available on Sunday morning at 11:30 on CBS Miami's Facing South Florida. Oliva will discuss Education, Healthcare, Guns, Marijuana and a number of other issues facing this year's Legislature. It will also be available on


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