House nears vote on 15-week abortion ban
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selective focus of pregnancy test on book with abortion law lettering near stethoscope
“Florida will no longer remain a destination state for late term abortions."

After a day of questions, the House is now ready to vote on a proposal that would enact one of the strictest abortion restrictions in the nation by banning the procedure after the 15th week of pregnancy.

Democratic lawmakers pummeled the bill sponsors with questions Tuesday, making their case against the proposal by probing provisions within the measure.

The meeting lasted more than three hours. House Speaker Chris Sprowls intervened often, warning Democratic members their questions sometimes sounded like debate.

“The House Chamber is not a courtroom,” Sprowls warned members.

While defeat Wednesday is almost imminent, outnumbered-Democrats remain steadfast in their opposition. Some members even grew emotional as Republican lawmakers shot down amendment after amendment. 

Hollywood Democratic Rep. Marie Woodson asserted many women are unaware they are pregnant by 15 weeks. Windermere Democratic Rep. Geraldine Thompson posed questions on “individual liberties.” Kissimmee Democratic Rep. Kristin Arrington pondered the significance of 15-weeks.

Orlando Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani, meanwhile, suggested the bill would not only harm the poor but also require them to travel far to access abortion services. According to a staff analysis, North Carolina is the nearest state offering abortion after 15 weeks. 

The bill sponsor, though, Vero Beach Republican Rep. Erin Grall, holds that abortion is not health care. She further insists the bill is not a prohibition of abortion, as women may still “terminate (a) child’s life” under the measure before the 15-week deadline.

“Florida will no longer remain a destination state for late term abortions,” Grall said. 

The bill (HB 5) is among the most controversial of the 2022 Legislative Session. It would ban abortions after 15 weeks and makes no exceptions for rape or incest, unless the life of the mother is endanger.

Florida law currently prohibits third-trimester abortions — which the law says begins at the 24th week of gestation.

The bill, some Democrats suggested, is part of a larger effort to nix abortion rights all together. 

It is similar in nature to a controversial Mississippi law under the review of the U.S. Supreme Court. A judgment is expected in June, per media reports.

Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Angie Nixon questioned the possible fiscal impacts of the proposal.

While the bill is indeed unconstitutional at the moment, Grall asserted Florida’s timing will work in its favor.

“I believe that we will see an affordable benefit financially by Mississippi’s early engagement in this issue in front of the Supreme Court,” Grall said. 

Democrats aren’t entirely opposed to the bill. It would would loop pregnant women into a tobacco education program. 

It would also create an infant mortality review process, bolster infant mortality-reduction initiatives and enhance Florida’s abortion reporting requirements to include instances of human trafficking.

But Democratic lawmakers, including House Minority Leader Evan Jenne, remain opposed to the bill in its current form, and Republican lawmakers remain unwavering. The Republican-majority gunned down 14 Democratic-sponsored amendments, including a pitch to remove a provision that would require a pregnant woman to get two doctors to certify that an abortion is needed to save the woman’s life. Democratic Rep. Ben Diamond of St. Petersburg sponsored the amendment.

Republican also shot down an amendment to strip the bill of all abortion language and a separate provision by Woodson to create a rape and incest exception.

“Let’s be human,” Woodson pleaded with Republicans as she wept while recalling the story of a friend who was raped.

According to a staff analysis, state officials recorded 209,645 live births in 2020 and 72,073 abortions — most of which were elective. Aventura Democratic Rep. Joe Geller pondered if those seeking abortions would seek “back alley” abortions if the measure is passed. Grall disputed the assertion.

“Under this bill, we will end the most barbaric, the most aggressive, the most violent abortions,” Grall said.

The fight against abortion rights, though, is ramping up nationwide. In October, Texas enacted one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation. Known as the Heartbeat Bill, it outlaws abortions after six weeks. West Virginia, meanwhile, has introduced legislation to impose a 15-week abortion ban.

Republican lawmakers in Florida enjoy the blessing of Gov. Ron DeSantis, who described the bill in January as “very reasonable.” Senate President Wilton Simpson and House Speaker Chris Sprowls — both Republicans — also are on board.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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