TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) — After an emotional day of testimony, a bill that would ban nearly all abortions in Florida after the 15th week of pregnancy passed its first Senate committee on Wednesday.
SB 146 is sponsored by Fla. Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland), who became pregnant as a teenager and had a daughter. Her bill, and its companion HB 5, only include exceptions for pregnancies where the mother’s life or serious bodily function are in danger, or when there is a fatal fetal abnormality.
There are no exceptions for women who have survived rape or incest.
“I think a lot of people miss that this is not an all-out ban,” said Stargel during the committee hearing. “An individual has the decision, to make the decision, of what they wanna do with their pregnancy prior to the 15 weeks.”
Fla. Sen. Lauren Book (D-Broward Co.), who is a survivor of sexual assault, introduced an amendment to create an exception for women who become pregnant as a result of rape, incest or human trafficking.
Several doctors spoke during the public comment period, including one who told a story about her patient, whom she gave the anonymous nickname “Lizzie,” to explain why Stargel’s claim isn’t always true.
“Lizzie is 11 years old,” said Dr. Samantha Deans, an obstetrician-gynecologist who works in South Florida. “She was raped by a family member shortly after her very first period. She was too young and too scared to know what had happened to her let alone to admit to anyone else.”
“When her stomach began to show, her mother took her to a physician, who diagnosed her pregnancy at 23 weeks. At the tender age of 11, Lizzie could tell me she did not want to be pregnant. Luckily, her mother supported her, and she had an abortion.”
“If SB 146 was in law today, Lizzie would be forced to continue a pregnancy that was put on her against her will, continued against her will, she would increase her chances of dying from that pregnancy, and it would surely kill her childhood.”
Several speakers also spoke in favor of the bill and against the amendment to make exceptions.
“In no situation do we believe that we should punish the child with the death penalty for the crime of the father,” said Aaron DiPietro with Florida Family Council.
“The children that are conceived as a result of rape, or incest, or an unfortunate human trafficking situation are innocent human beings,” said Andrew Shirvell of Florida Voice for the Unborn. “The manner in which a child is conceived is irrelevant.”
According to the latest state data, 74,756 abortions were performed in Florida in 2021, with 6% of them taking place in the 2nd trimester, which begins around 13 weeks of pregnancy (there were zero in the 3rd trimester; they are illegal under Florida law).
Of the 4,491 women who gave a reason for seeking an abortion in the second trimester, three women listed incest, 14 women listed rape.
The amendment to add exceptions for rape, incest and human trafficking failed.
Agriculture Commissioner and candidate for governor Nikki Fried also spoke during the public comment period.
“I know that you don’t want to do this,” Fried said. “We are all public servants. To serve the public, not the governor… I know you all personally. Some of you I’ve known for 20+ years.”
Stargel addressed Fried’s comments in her closing on the bill.
“When I got elected, I came up here with the desire to try to fix what I thought was a fault with the parental notice bill, which was done with the consultation of Planned Parenthood, before I was even elected,” Stargel said. “I have been pushing on these issues from the very moment I set foot in this Capitol. I believe strongly that life begins at conception. I believe strongly that these are babies in women’s wombs. And I want to protect them, and with that I ask for your favorable support.”
The bill was recommended favorably by the Senate Health Policy committee on a 6-4 party-line vote. It now heads to Appropriations, the final committee stop before it would be heard on the floor.