During discussion of controversial issues on abortion and fetuses Wednesday, Republican leaders of Florida's Legislature sent all of the House's teenage pages out of the chamber, and they weren't allowed back in until debate opened on the next issue: guns.
The unusual "precaution" was noted by members of the Capitol press corps who attended the House session yesterday. The Legislature is considering a bill that would effectively ban abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy, as well as a "crimes against the unborn" measure to put stiffer penalties on criminals who assault pregnant women leading to the death of their fetus.
The House pages and messengers, who have served the state's legislators since at least 1865, are all students who spend a week running errands for lawmakers and learning the business of state government. But Wednesday they were led off the floor, presumably so they couldn't be tainted by that business of government.
Orlando Sentinel reporter Aaron Deslatte was first to note the outgoing parade of young impressionable youths:
The AP's Tallahassee bureau chief, Brendan Farrington, also took note of the exodus:
Deslatte later added that it wasn't the first time the House has tried to shield its kiddies while debating legislation purported to be about shielding the kiddies:
Of course, Florida has a history of this sort of thing: During yet another fractious abortion debate in 2011, Republican legislative leaders launched a vendetta against a Democratic colleague who'd used the word "uterus" on the House floor. A representative for then-House Speaker Dean Cannon confirmed to the media that "uterus" was "inappropriate" language for the younguns, pages included:
...the Speaker believes it is important for all Members to be mindful of and respectful to visitors and guests, particularly the young pages and messengers who are seated in the chamber during debates. In the past, if the debate is going to contain language that would be considered inappropriate for children and other guests, the Speaker will make an announcement in advance, asking children and others who may be uncomfortable with the subject matter to leave the floor and gallery.
Well, agree or disagree with Republicans, ya gotta give 'em this: They're consistent when it comes to wanting to protect the children. Except:
Well, you have to teach the children how to protect themselves, too, n'est-ce pas?