TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Florida lawmakers started the March legislative session by introducing a six week abortion ban, intended to further restrict the ability for Florida mothers to undergo the procedure from 2022’s 15-week ban.
While House Bill 5, passed last year, does not contain exceptions for rape, incest, or human trafficking, Senate Bill 300 and House Bill 7, called the “Pregnancy and Parenting Support Act,” do include exceptions for rape and incest, as well as medical emergencies to save the pregnant mother’s life or prevent serious injury.
However, in order to use that exception, mothers seeking an abortion for a baby conceived via rape or incest would have to provide copies of restraining orders, police reports, medical records, or court documents to prove that they are victims of rape or incest. Should the records be supplied for the request to terminate the pregnancy, the exception for the ban would be extended to 15 weeks, rather than the six week restriction for others.
The bill would also require that if the mother is a minor, the doctor must report the incident of rape or incest to Florida’s central abuse hotline, as required by state statutes.
As provided in the bill text, providing an abortion is further limited in Florida. Specifically, patients have to have a doctor in the room with them in order to undergo an abortion, even if the procedure is pharmaceutical rather than physical. Additionally, physicians may not use telehealth appointments for an abortion, even for prescribing abortion-inducing drugs.
Providing abortion medication through the mail would also be banned if the bill passes.
The bill also explicitly repeals current statutes allowing the termination of pregnancies during viability. The text of the legislation also states that parts of the act take effect 30 days after decisions from the Florida Supreme Court come in a variety of lawsuits challenging the 2022 15-week abortion ban. The relevant sections are the rules concerning providing abortions or obtaining one after the general six week restriction.
HB 7 and SB 300 also require the Florida Department of Health to report to the Governor and the Legislature information relating to the Florida Pregnancy Care Network, Inc., such as the amount of services and the expenditures used for the network’s programs, the number of clients served, and what the demographic information for eligible clients is.
The Florida Pregnancy Care Network is enabled to provide “pregnancy and parenting support services,” to include service that promotes and encourages childbirth, as well as provide pregnancy tests and counseling, education for pregnant mothers and their families, nonmedical material assistance to help the parenting situation of a family, to include purchase of clothing, car seats, cribs, formula, and diapers, as well as mentoring and classes for pregnancy, parenting, adoptions, life skills, and employment readiness.
Under the bill, state funds may not be used to pay for travel to another state to be treated with or receive services that are meant to enable or support an abortion, unless federal law requires state funds be used for that purpose, or if there is a “medical necessity for legitimate emergency medical procedures for termination of pregnancy” if it would save the mother’s life or avert serious risks of imminent, substantial, and irreversible physical impairment” of the mother’s bodily functions.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has already indicated he will sign the legislation into law, should it clear both chambers of the Florida Legislature, which both have Republican super majorities. If signed, the bill would take effect immediately upon becoming law.