Florida House passes 15-week abortion ban after hours-long debate
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selective focus of pregnancy test on book with abortion law lettering near stethoscope
The bill provides no exception for rape, incest or pregnant survivors of human trafficking.

Florida is on the cusp of passing one of the most restrictive abortion measures in the nation.

After more than five hours of debate, the House approved a bill (HB 5) Thursday proposing a 15-week abortion ban in Florida.

Only two lawmakers broke party ranks in the 78-39 vote — Orlando Republican Rep. Rene Plascencia and Miami Democratic Rep. James Bush.

The fate of abortion access is now in the hands of the Republican-controlled Senate, where passage is almost certain. 

“I know nothing I’m going to say will change the minds of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle,” said Kissimmee Democratic Rep. Kristen Arrington in the opening minutes of debate, before sharing she is a survivor of rape.

The bill’s passage marks the end of a months-long confrontational crusade by House Democrats and fellow activists.

Sponsored by Vero Beach Republican Rep. Erin Grall, the bill provides no exception for rape or incest, unless the life of the mother is in danger. In the event of a “fatal fetal abnormality,” a woman seeking an abortion must seek the certification of two doctors.

“This discussion is no longer just about a woman’s body because there are two bodies,” Grall said.

Weston Democratic Rep. Robin Bartleman decried the bill. She wrestled with the decision to abort after facing a pregnancy complication.

“God forbid your 11-year-old is raped and pregnant and you find out after 15 weeks,” Bartleman said.

Passage didn’t come easy. Opponents hosted countless rallies and protests, many featuring high-ranking Democratic leaders. Critics packed into committee rooms, paraded on social media and flooded the phone lines of lawmakers. 

The fight, however futile, continued Wednesday with protesters chanting at lawmakers from the gallery. House Speaker Chris Sprowls later condemned the outburst.

Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book vowed to continue the legislative fight.

“Shout out to the members of the (Florida House Democrats) who are still on the house floor tonight — right now — fighting for women’s rights and defending reproductive freedom,” said Book, a sexual abuse survivor.

Current Florida law prohibits third-trimester abortions — which the law says begins at the 24th week of gestation. The bill, however, tests the limits of Roe v. Wade. It is similar to a Mississippi law under the review of the U.S. Supreme Court. A decision is expected in June.

“Women will have abortions whether you like it or not,” Aventura Democratic Rep. Joe Geller said. “They have and they will and you’re not stopping them no matter what.”

The bill sponsors, including Fort Myers Republican Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, have repeatedly touted the measure as one of the most ambitious efforts against the legal standard on abortion.

Their point underscores the fundamental ideological differences between parties. Proponents widely dispute assertions that abortion is health care. What’s more, they denounce it as cruel and indefensible.

The procedure, many Republicans claimed, inflicts pain upon a baby in the womb. Republicans cited data, though it was disputed by Democrats.

“Florida is behind the curve on the issue of abortion,” said Sweetwater Republican Rep. David Borrero. “The time is now to update Florida’s antiquated and heartless abortion laws.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis supports the bill. He described it in January as “very reasonable.” Senate President Wilton Simpson and Speaker Sprowls — both Republicans — are also on board.

According to a staff analysis, state officials in Florida recorded 209,645 live births in 2020 and 72,073 abortions — most of them elective.

“Tragically, our state is an abortion destination,” said Bradenton Republican Rep. Will Robinson.

Democratic lawmakers filed dozens of amendments throughout the legislative process. Some aimed to remove the abortion language, while others looked to provide a rape and incest exception. 

Republicans, though, accepted none.

“This is about the right to life and to give up life is unconscionable,” said Fort Pierce Republican Rep. Dana Trabusly, a rape survivor who shared she once also had an abortion. “It’s something I have regretted every day since.”

Notably, Democrats aren’t opposed to the entire measure. It would loop pregnant women into a tobacco education program. The bill 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.

Still, Democrats remained fully opposed to the limitations on abortion.

“This caucus is going to be standing for the brave, powerful women subjected to that horror and depravity,” said House Minority Leader Evan Jenne of rape, incest, and human trafficking survivors. “My vote is yours this evening.”

The effort by Florida Republicans to challenge abortion is part of a nationwide movement. 

Texas in October enacted one of the strictest abortion laws in the nation. Known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” it outlaws abortion after six weeks or when a heartbeat is detected. West Virginia, meanwhile, introduced legislation to impose a 15-week abortion ban.

Deltona Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby proposed a six-week abortion ban in Florida. The bill, however, has not appeared before a committee. 

“I believe that abortion is murder in the first degree,” Barnaby said after sharing a doctor once urged his wife to abort after a pregnancy complication. 

Among other points, Democratic lawmakers argue the bill will disproportionately burden low-income and minority women. 

According to the Brookings Institution, they are five times more likely to experience an unintended pregnancy than affluent women. North Carolina, meanwhile, is the nearest state offering abortion after 15 weeks. 

The proposal is labeled as “Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality.”

“I think the title of the bill was a huge slap in the face of Black mothers everywhere,” said Jacksonville Democratic Rep. Angie Nixon. “Especially in a time where we have the highest infant mortality rate.”

The proposal will appear next before the Senate Appropriation Committee on Monday.

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.


13 comments

  • Ron Ogden

    February 17, 2022 at 3:14 am

    For half a century, America has known that killing our way out of a problem is wrong. A baby isn’t a pimple on the face of your life. It is a human being with a fundamental right to live. We are in the middle of a cultural sea change. We are coming to understand that if we insist on the right to life of manatees and bonobos and planets, then we insist on the right to life of babies.

    • Jon Coleman

      February 17, 2022 at 10:17 am

      America does NOT “know this” and public opinion is in fact against you. What gives you the right to tell women what to do with their own bodies? Nothing. There is as much evidence for leprechauns or mermaids as there is for your version of twisted Christianity. Mind your own business or let us all know when you have personally adopted a handful of these unwanted fetuses.

    • Don’t Look Up

      February 17, 2022 at 12:24 pm

      Let’s stop the root of abortion! Let’s force a vasectomy on every 11 year old boy and not reverse the surgery until the boy graduates from College and has a job to support a family.

      • Lynda

        February 17, 2022 at 2:21 pm

        The legislature is playing doctor again along with a smear of g-d. How fortunate every person elected to the legislature has been educated on the complexities of the reproduction system in women. And for their continuing education they look to Mississippi for mentoring.

        They would like to follow the bounty system used in Texas (YeeHaw, give me the guns so I can shoot me some women!) but deSantis is too timid to go all out unconstitutional when he looks at the polls where this GOP/Republican/Trumpest “focus on the fetus” is so unpopular.
        I am awed by the Democratic women who are willing to tell their stories to the unhearing men supporting this bad bill.
        Where are the men who can describe their own “encounters” as rapists or those who commit incest or those faithful partners who let their hormones and “rights” get in the way of care for their partners health.

        Put me in the camp of vasectomies for every male at age 11. Ban the blue pill while we are at it. Don’t worry men, an “Encounter” is still possible, no fetus is produced.Now we are talking how to stop abortions. Let men take responsibility.

  • ScienceBLVR

    February 17, 2022 at 7:26 am

    So we trot out a few women to make comments, but ultimately, this is being decided by men, who never have to face an unwanted pregnancy. So men, overwhelmingly, are the gender that commits’ the rapes, the incest, and the human trafficking and then they get to make the very private decisions for women? I wont even talk about the lack of Republican led male support for single mothers, children in poverty, etc. The answer has always been simple: If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one.

    • Jon Coleman

      February 17, 2022 at 10:18 am

      You are 100% correct. I’m speaking as a man. Thank you for your sanity.

  • Concern Citizen

    February 17, 2022 at 9:45 am

    Will the same people supporting this bill will also protect the lives of Floridians by supporting a bill for universal health care for all Floridians, a bill that will save the lives of those who are born.

  • Jon Coleman

    February 17, 2022 at 10:14 am

    GOP, you are truly insane. You do not give a damn about these kids once they are born. You do not consider the circumstances into which these unwanted kids are born. You do not think about what it is like to force the victim of rape or incest to carry the reminder of that for nine months. All of this to control women, and to satisfy religious fundamentalists. I am a man, and I am disgusted by this cynical pandering to the extreme right wing.

    • Average Florida GOP Voter

      February 17, 2022 at 10:37 am

      Bible say abortion bad. Me vote for guy who do what bible say. Bible man win, me win. Me not interested in other issues that have actual impact on me or me family. Ooga booga.

      • Lynda

        February 17, 2022 at 2:26 pm

        Tell me where in the King James version of the Bible, abortion is banned. My religious education didn’t include those verses.

        Better yet tell me where in the original languages of what eventually became a Bible sold now, abortion is banned.

      • Lynda

        February 17, 2022 at 2:27 pm

        Yes, I know you included an invisible /s for sarcasm.

  • Don’t Look Up

    February 17, 2022 at 12:19 pm

    FREEDUMB for Florida’s women!

  • politics

    February 20, 2022 at 11:02 pm

    it is 15 not bad for a apathy bill.

Comments are closed.


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