TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — After six hours of debate that ended just after midnight Thursday, the Florida House of Representatives passed a ban on nearly all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, ending weeks of committee hearings and shifting focus to the companion bill in the Florida Senate.
Representatives gave stirring testimony throughout the evening on HB 5, entitled “Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality.” Several female members on both sides of the aisle recounted graphic stories of rape, incest, and in some cases their own abortions.
“It didn’t fit my narrative, it didn’t fit my lifestyle, I didn’t want a baby,” said Fla. Rep. Anna Trabulsy, R-Port St. Lucie. “So I had an abortion…and it’s something that I have regretted every day since.”
The bill does not include exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking. Amendments that would have added those exceptions to the bill were rejected by Republican lawmakers in at least one Senate committee and on the House floor.
There are two exceptions to the ban, one of which is already in Florida law: when it is “necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life or avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment…other than a psychological condition.”
The bill adds another exception for when the fetus has not achieved viability and has a “fatal fetal abnormality.” Both exceptions require the written certification of two physicians, or only one in the case of an emergency for the mother’s health.
At the end of the night, as bill sponsor Fla. Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, was presenting her closing arguments, a protest chant of “my body, my choice” stopped proceedings on the floor for several minutes.
Tampa Bay lawmakers spoke passionately about the bill, which also includes measures to try and reduce and track infant mortality.
“There are many that fight for someone’s second chance at life,” said Fla. Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa. “Or even their third chance at life. But what about our first chance? That is what we’re fighting for today.”
“Today, most women, when they seek an abortion, they cite not being financially prepared as one of the reasons,” said Fla. Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa. “It’s not that they don’t care about children. In fact, the CDC says that 60% of women who seek abortions already have children.”
“We trust individuals to make a choice about how to navigate a global pandemic,” said Fla. Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa. “A choice that will have effects on multitude of people. However, a woman who has fallen victim to rape, incest, or human trafficking isn’t allowed the same grace.”
“This argument isn’t about when life begins,” said Fla. Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Lakewood Ranch. “It is really an argument about when we are going to give the unborn baby, when are we going to give that human being the right to life. When are we going to give them legal acknowledgement and protection?”
The bill passed almost entirely along party lines, except for one Democrat and one Republican. Fla. Rep. Dr. James Bush, D-Miami, voted for the bill. Fla. Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Titusville, voted against it.
The companion bill in the Florida Senate, SB 146, has one more committee stop before it can be heard and get a vote on the floor.
Governor Ron DeSantis has signaled his support for the bill.