The “Heartbeat Protection Act” survived dozens of Democratic amendments and demonstrations from the gallery before it was cleared. The House passed the bill by a 70-40 vote after more than seven hours of deliberation.
SB 300, which would change the current 15-week threshold for abortion to banning it after the sixth week of gestation, emerged unscathed even after Democrats spent hours trying to change it with amendments, some very creative, including one that would have changed the title of the bill to the Forced Pregnancy Act.
Yet another suggested change invoked the Walt Disney Corporation’s subversion of DeSantis’ takeover of the former Reedy Creek Improvement District, stipulating the law “shall take effect 21 years after the death of the last surviving descendant of King Charles III, King of England, who is alive on July 1, 2023.”
Also spiked: an amendment that would have compelled the father of a baby whose underaged mother was denied an abortion to put up a $300,000 bond for financial support of the mother and imposing a condition of no contact on the father.
Similarly, Republicans rejected a proposed change that would have required three months of parental leave for the mother and father in the case of a denied termination of pregnancy. An amendment permitting State Guard members 21 days to make health care decisions likewise didn’t get traction. Neither did one removing the reporting requirement for victims of rape, incest and human trafficking.
These and many other amendments failed, mostly via voice vote, as did an attempt by House Democratic Leader Fentrice Driskell to refer the Senate bill to the Appropriations Committee because $30 million will be spent by the Department of Health for contraception and parental support programs, with $25 million of that going to Pregnancy Care Centers.
Democrats questioned the sponsors of the House bill, Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka and Jennifer Canady, on the mechanics of the bill. Those questions covered the science behind the proposed six-week ban, potential impacts on the life of the mother, exceptions for foster children, the “compelling interest of the state in promoting childbirth,” ectopic pregnancies and miscarriages, and other topics.
The bill was immediately rolled over for final passage after the amendment process concluded, but not before hours of debate, during which Republicans had their say.
Rep. Kiyan Michael of Jacksonville invoked former Planned Parenthood President Margaret Sanger, quoting her as saying she wanted to “exterminate the Negro race” and wondering how Black women like her could support the bill.
“A baby should not be a commodity that abortionists can profit off of,” asserted Rep. David Borrero of Doral, supporting a total abortion ban. “It’s called blood money.”
Rep. Mike Beltran said the bill was a “compromise,” noting he favors an “outright ban.”
“This is a heartbeat bill,” the Riverview Republican said, adding that Florida would still be “one of the most lenient states in the South” on abortion once this bill becomes law.
Rep. Doug Bankson of Apopka compared himself to a “first responder, a firefighter rushing into a burning building full of children,” able to “save more lives” but with “more lives worth saving.”
The opposition party dominated the debate time though.
Democratic Rep. Jennifer Harris of Orange County offered a historical reference in her own debate, quoting objectivist Ayn Rand saying “abortion is a moral right which should be left to the sole discretion of the woman involved.”
Democratic Rep. Yvonne Hinson of Gainesville, meanwhile, quoted former Gov. Rick Scott in opposition, saying “most people want reasonable restrictions.”
“That’s where the population is and our state legislation ought to represent that,” Hinson said.
Rep. Bruce Antone cited another Republican, former U.S. President and California Gov. Ronald Reagan, who in 1967 signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act.
The law permitted abortions until the 20th week of gestation in cases of rape or incest, to protect the mother’s health, or in cases of statutory rape involving girls aged 15 and younger.
“That bill was supposedly designed to meet the needs of society,” the Orlando Democrat said.
Rep. Ashley Gantt of Miami had a message for “all the mistresses of wealthy men in Florida,” telling them to “not take that trip” and “have your baby.”
“Make sure you get a headache or something or are unavailable. Put your phone on Do Not Disturb,” Gantt added.
Finally, Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby responded to Rep. Michael’s canard about Margaret Sanger, calling the reference “highly offensive” given it’s “relegating Black women’s bodies to only being useful for breeding.”
Some exceptions to the six-week rule apply.
2022’s HB 5 made no exception for cases of rape and incest, a controversy at the time. However, the new bill would allow abortion up to the 15th week of pregnancy if the woman was impregnated by human trafficking, 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.
Gov. Ron DeSantis will likely sign the measure.
“I’m willing to sign great life legislation. That’s what I’ve always said I would do,” DeSantis said last year, regarding a six-week ban.
Previously, the Governor said that he thought a ban after 15 weeks was “very reasonable.” But in the wake of the overturning of Roe v. Wade last year, Republicans see a window to roll back reproductive rights even further, and they’re taking advantage. Assuming DeSantis runs for President after the Legislative Session, this measure likely will do well with Primary voters.