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Republicans advance bill banning certain abortions, welcome court challenges

A House bill that would do away with the “most commonly performed” method of abortion in Florida was advanced on Wednesday, with some Republicans welcoming challenges in court if it is deemed unconstitutional upon passage.

The chances of the bill passing this Session, however, are unlikely. The companion bill in the Senate has yet to hold a hearing.

But the controversial proposal, HB 1429, is still moving ahead in the House and cleared its second of three committee assignments on Wednesday, where it drew criticism from Democrats and an American Civil Liberties Union representative.

“This tramples on women’s rights to access the safest and most commonly used method of abortion during the second trimester,” said Kara Gross with the ACLU.

Under the bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Erin Grall, physicians would face a third-degree felony if they use tools, such as clamps and thongs, during the dilation and evacuation abortion procedure unless a woman’s life is in danger.

The proposal opened up a heated debate that ranged from Republican Rep. George Moraitis calling the procedure a baby “execution” to Democratic state Rep. Cynthia Stafford saying terminating a pregnancy is a decision between a “woman and her god, not a woman and her government.”

“This is not going to result in changing existing practices because we have an independent judiciary and rule of law that protects the rights of people — yes, even women  in our society,” Democratic Rep. Joseph Geller said.

Republican Rep. Heather Fitzenhagen supported the measure, but urged lawmakers to push harder to give women greater access to reproductive education and birth control so they “don’t find themselves in these situations.”

Several other states have passed legislation similar to the one proposed by Grall this year. These laws have opened the states up to challenges in court. That worried some Republicans who helped advance the measure.

That included Rep. Scott Plakon who was disturbed that a “big move to protect lobsters” would get more support than a bill that would “protect a sentient being from feeling pain during a procedure performed by monsters.”

“God help us that this is going on,” Plakon said, “let’s vote yes and find out what the courts will say on this. I would consider it money well spent to go through the courts.”

Gross said taxpayers would end up footing the bill in litigation costs for the “Legislature’s insistence on passing unconstitutional legislation.”

Written By

Ana covers politics and policy Before joining the News Service of Florida she wrote for the Naples Daily News and was the legislative relief reporter for The Associated Press and covered policy issues impacting immigration, the environment, criminal justice and social welfare in Florida. She holds a B.A. in journalism from San Diego State University. After graduating in 2014, she worked as a criminal justice reporter for the Monterey Herald and the Monterey County Weekly. She has also freelanced for The Washington Post at the U.S.-Mexico border covering crime in the border city of Tijuana, where she grew up. Ana is fluent in Spanish and has intermediate proficiency in Portuguese.

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