TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida’s legislative session continues its second week with movement on one of multiple abortion ban bills currently working their way through the legislature.
The Republican-proposed 15-week abortion ban, House Bill 5, passed its first House committee review on a 12-6 vote, with the yeas and nays voting along predictable party lines. In the Professions & Public Health Subcommittee, HB 5 was approved. The bill now heads to its next two hearings in the Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee and Health & Human Services Committee.
Its companion bill in the Senate, SB 146, was proposed by Fla. Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) and submitted to the legislature on January 11. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill seek to shorten the state’s legal window to seek out and receive an abortion, as well as defining and codifying what the different types of recognized abortions are.
Under the law, the state would add definitions for a “medical abortion” to mean abortions caused by a pharmaceutical drugs, as well as the more commonly-referenced surgical abortion.
Under HB 5 and SB 146, the current timeframe to get an abortion in Florida is shortened from 24 weeks to 15. Across Florida, between Gov. Ron DeSantis and leaders of both legislative chambers, the bills have not yet faced opposition outside of Democratic Party members. With Florida’s strong Republican leaning in recent elections, and the GOP majority in both chambers and the governor’s office, a lack of opposition to abortion restrictions is unsurprising.
As previously reported, Stargel’s proposed legislation would bar physicians from performing “a termination of pregnancy if the physician determines the gestational age of the fetus is more than 15 weeks,” though it does provide an exception in cases where a fetus “has a fatal fetal abnormality” that prevents it from achieving viability.
To meet this exception, two physicians must certify in writing that in their “reasonable medical judgment,” the fetus would not survive.
Florida House Democrats were quick to criticize the bill, sending out statements following HB 5’s committee passage with comments on how it attacks Floridian rights and is bad for low-income, rural Florida residents.
“This bill is terrible for all Floridians, particularly for those who are low-income, live in rural areas, or are people of color who have historically faced inequitable access to quality healthcare, or low income people who cannot afford to travel out of state for a safe abortion,” said Fla. Rep. Fentrice Driskell (D-Tampa). “It is not the government’s place to interfere with one of the toughest decisions a person will ever make. That private decision is one of faith, healthcare, personal freedom, and protecting the emotional and physical future of women and their families. Tallahassee politicians should not be involved.”
The battle in Florida’s legislature comes as the U.S. Supreme Court hears arguments about similar legislation from Mississippi, and previous bills filed to restrict abortions in Texas.
In the 15-week abortion ban proposed in both chambers, protections for abortion for victims of rape and incest were not included.