The Florida Senate positioned legislation that would ban most abortions after the sixth week of pregnancy for a floor vote after a lengthy debate Thursday.
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.
What is now called the Heartbeat Protection Act, said Grall in introduction, would “protect innocent babies who deserve the right to life,” and the six-week ban with exceptions was central to that.
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. That exception would include statutory rapes.
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.
Likewise, if the fetus had a “fatal abnormality,” abortion would be permitted during the first two trimesters.
An amendment adding human trafficking to the bill as a permissible exception was approved, along with the sponsor’s title mentioned above. Many others failed.
The Senate took up 20 total amendments on the bill, most of which were filed by Democrats and were rejected, such as the Minority Leader Lauren Book title change to “Electrical Activity that can be Manipulated to Sound like a Heartbeat through Ultrasound Protection at the Expense of Pregnant People’s Health and Wellbeing Act.”
Among the other spiked amendments: one requiring child support from the father dating back to the time of conception; one offering an exception if the mother could suffer “substantial and irreversible physical or mental impairment”; one using ultrasound to determine gestational age, rather than the date of the mother’s last period; one allowing one doctor to determine a fatal fetal abnormality.
Still other rejected changes include the following: a religious conscience exemption; an exception for military wives; an exception for women in danger of domestic violence; an allowance for telehealth consultations for women living more than 100 miles from an abortion provider; an amendment striking the bill’s requirement for two doctor visits before the procedure; a provision allowing the mother to file a civil suit against the child’s father; and a proposal to slot $12.5 million into fertility services for state employees.
The companion bill is moving in the House as well. Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka’s measure (HB 7) passed its final committee Thursday, with an amendment that aligns the House and Senate products.