A bill that would ban abortion after the sixth week of pregnancy cleared the Florida Senate’s Health Policy committee Monday.
That was the first of two Senate committees for one of the most controversial bills of the Legislative Session.
SB 300, filed by Fort Pierce Republican Sen. Erin Grall, would ban doctors from knowingly performing or inducing a termination of pregnancy after the sixth week of gestation. This would represent a change from the current 15-week threshold, which legislators hailed as a reasonable compromise when they passed it last year.
2022’s HB 5 made no exception for cases of rape and incest, a controversy at the time. However, the current bill would allow abortion up to the 15th week of pregnancy if the woman was impregnated by rape or incest or a combination thereof. Grall clarified in committee that a statutory rape would count as rape because minors cannot consent to sex legally.
“Where we are today is different than we were a year ago,” Grall said, noting the overturning of Roe v. Wade gave the states renewed ability to impose “the strongest protections for innocent life” possible, making Florida “a beacon of hope for those who understand that all life is sacred and must be protected.”
Other exceptions would apply. If the pregnant woman is judged by two doctors to be in danger of dying or suffering “substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman other than a psychological condition,” she could have an abortion. If only one doctor were available, that sole physician’s recommendation would suffice also.
Likewise, if the fetus had a “fatal abnormality,” abortion would be permitted during the first two trimesters.
Democratic lawmakers unsuccessfully floated several amendments to the bill. These included one removing the two physicians requirement, one adding human trafficking as a condition for an exception, one rescinding the bill’s ban on telehealth and pharmaceutical abortion, and one stripping the bill of $25 million in funding for Crisis Pregnancy Centers.
After dozens of speakers, many medical professionals and most against the bill, had their say, outnumbered Democrats tried yet again to stop the train.
Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book said the bill was an example of “stripping health care access” for women, noting that for many women, $600 for the procedure would be prohibitive.
“If this bill is passed, it will kill women and girls,” Book said, calling the bill a “big government” measure that’s “the very opposite of the word we throw around here a lot, which is freedom.”
“Where does the legislative overreach end? If I have to be honest, sitting here, I don’t see it ending anytime soon,” said Sen. Tracie Davis, who described her own decision to have an abortion “as a married woman with an adult child.”
Davis acknowledged what she had to say “wouldn’t change any minds on this committee,” but urged her colleagues “to consider the road we are going down.”
The bill may have a major supporter in the executive branch. Gov. Ron DeSantis said he was “willing to sign” such legislation last year, and he said the same thing Tuesday to reporters in Tallahassee.
“Exceptions are sensible. And like I said, we welcome pro-life legislation,” DeSantis said.
The companion bill is moving in the House also. Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka’s HB 7 has cleared one committee already, and has one stop ahead.