‘Personhood,’ abortion specters shadow wrongful death of unborn child bill
After two years of failed attempts by other Senators, Erin Grall successfully carried a bill clearing payment to Robert DuBoise through the chamber. Image via Colin Hackley for Florida Politics.

'Any abortion provider that provides a lawful abortion could not be sued.'

As abortion rights and anti-abortion activists await Florida Supreme Court rulings that could determine the fate of abortion law in the state, they are also battling it out in the Legislature.

Republican Senators amended a bill (SB 476) to define “unborn child” as a person at the point of conception for purposes of civil liability when a fetus is killed due to negligence.

Sen. Erin Grall, a Vero Beach Republican sponsoring the bill, which was intended to allow the parents of an unborn child killed due to negligence to collect damages for mental pain and suffering. She rebuffed concerns from Democrats and critics that it is an end-run to get the courts to recognize “personhood” — that a fetus is a legal person at conception — in state law, with an eye toward banning all abortions.

“When this statute is read in its entirety it is clear that this is about a wrongful act, negligence, default or breach,” Grall said. “Any abortion provider that provides a lawful abortion could not be sued.”

Abortion rights advocates and Democrats aren’t convinced. Sen. Lori Berman, a Lantana Democrat, said women can already sue over the wrongful death of a fetus so the bill isn’t needed.

“Why do we even need this unless it’s a subterfuge to get to the issue of personhood?” Berman said.

One anti-abortion advocate indicated the bill could be the first step toward installing the concept of personhood in the law.

“It recognizes the value of that unborn life and it puts the state, we believe, on a path to recognizing the fundamental personhood of the unborn child,” said John Labriola of the Christian Family Coalition of Florida.

The bill contains a provision prohibiting a woman who loses a pregnancy from being sued, but Democrats and pro-abortion rights activists noted it could still allow an abusive spouse or significant other to sue health care providers for damages. That, in turn, could intimidate health care professionals.

“Where in the bill does it prevent civil lawsuits for damages being brought by an abusive boyfriend?” said Kara Gross, legislative director and senior policy counsel for the Florida chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union. “This bill would have a chilling effect on doctors.”

But Grall said the measure is solely about compensating the parents of an unborn child.

“It’s rightfully putting the unborn child in this statute because they have been eliminated and there’s a very real loss that when someone else is responsible they should pay for,” Grall said.

Both sides of the debate are waiting for the Florida Supreme Court to rule on a case seeking to strike down the ban on abortions after 15 weeks. If the court strikes down previous precedent affirming abortion rights, it could trigger another law passed last year banning abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.

The court is also considering whether to allow an amendment on the November ballot that would prevent any new laws restricting abortions after 24 weeks.

Gray Rohrer


  • Incels Of Florida

    February 15, 2024 at 7:39 pm

    “Smaller Government!”

    “We govern your vagina.”

  • Cheesy Floridian

    February 15, 2024 at 9:31 pm

    Small government my ass. “Free Florida” ha! What a joke that is.

  • Dale A Arnold

    February 16, 2024 at 10:07 am

    So cells dividing are a person?
    So no more shall we say “self love” for men is next on their agenda..? After all it’s half of what’s needed and they do swim around soooo….

  • Dont Say FLA

    February 16, 2024 at 8:18 pm

    Whatever the definition of so-called “personhood” might be, if Donald J Trump is considered as a person under the definition, the definition needs some fixing.

  • PeterH

    February 17, 2024 at 8:26 pm

    Why are Floridians allowing a Catholic lawyer with zero scientific or medical background determine when human life begins AND how her decisions impact the lives of millions of Florida residents?

  • Parent

    February 18, 2024 at 5:56 pm

    Does this bill also allow parents of unborn children to receive tax benefits and food subsidies for this unborn system?

Comments are closed.


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