UPDATE: Florida’s 15-week abortion ban is back on the Senate floor for a question and answer session over the bill, and a vote on the more than a dozen amendments added by Democratic senators overnight.
Editors Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that Sen. Pizzo was the chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee.
TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — The Florida Legislature’s 15-week abortion ban is ready to clear the chamber, but not without proposed amendments to hit the floor before a full House vote. The Senate version of the bill passed its final committee today, putting it to a full floor vote next week, according to Senate staffers.
Both versions of the bill, House Bill 5 and Senate Bill 146, shorten the amount of time Florida mothers have to receive an abortion and do not provide exceptions for human trafficking, rape or incest when those types of incidents cause a pregnancy.
In the Florida Senate, the bill passed its third committee hearing, advancing to a full floor debate and vote. In the House, some of the proposed amendments add the exceptions for the abortion ban that both versions don’t include.
One amendment adds an exception to allow pregnant minors to obtain judicial waivers to receive an abortion, though it does not specify if there is a cut-off. Florida’s age of consent is 18, though there are exceptions for relationships between those 16 to 23, depending on age, in state statutes. It is unclear if they will pass the committee phase before a floor vote.
But one amendment, proposed by state senator Jason Pizzo, D-Miami, takes a different direction. If Pizzo’s amendment passes along with the legislation, it would create a division of the Florida Department of Health to provide hormonal long-acting reversible contraception to women in the state.
The HLARC amendment is essentially a proposed statewide program to provide residents with items such as intrauterine devices that help prevent pregnancy but are reversible should a woman decide to become pregnant.
In the 2021 legislative session, The News Service of Florida reported outgoing Sen. President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, had supported an HLARC program proposed by Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Jacksonville. It was vetoed by Gov. Ron DeSantis in the state budget.
Pizzo chose to include the program as an amendment in the bill banning abortions after 15 weeks.
As written in Pizzo’s amendment proposal, the state HLARC program would use grants from the federal government to supplement state funding, and would be required to educate program staff and health care providers on HLARC services and counseling strategies, as well as potential side effects.
For implementation, staff would also need to be trained on “issues such as coding, billing, pharmacy rules and clinic management,” associated with use of the devices. General support to expand family planning provider capacity would also be needed for any potential increased demand, according to the amendment’s text.
The proposal also adds a recurring appropriation from the Florida General Revenue Fund to operate the HLARC program, if it passes into law.
By the beginning of 2023, the FLDOH would be required to submit a report to the governor and the leaders of both legislative chambers on the cost and effectiveness of the HLARC program, which must also be published on its website. The program would be pitched, according to the wording of the amendment, as a way to reduce the number of abortions in Florida, particularly among teenagers.
The proposed amendments do not remove the narrow exception to HB 5’s abortion ban, which provides for the right to abortion in pregnancies where there is a risk to the life of the mother, serious bodily function is in danger, or when there is a fatal fetal abnormality. The defined “serious risk” to pregnant mothers notes explicitly that psychological conditions do not qualify for abortive proceedings.