New Abortion Bill Passes in Florida
March 9, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense, News & Announcements Social Share
The Florida legislature has passed another bill that targets delicate cultural issues. After several bills proposed about limiting LGBTQ+ rights and information taught in schools, this bill is another added to the list that is receiving mixed reviews from both Republicans and Democrats.
This specific bill focuses on the topic of abortion. Governor Ron DeSantis is endorsing a Republican-backed bill that would ban legal abortions after 15 weeks. The passage of the bill has resulted in backlash coming from Democrats, organizations such as Planned Parenthood, and even the White House.
A deeper look into the proposed law, the various responses, as well pertinent resources will be reviewed throughout this blog.
What is the Bill?
The bill, House Bill 5, was passed on Thursday, March 3rd 2022. It is referred to as Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality. The bill would prohibit abortions from being performed by physicians after a specified amount of weeks. The time frame would stop legal abortions after 15 weeks of gestational age. There are a few exceptions to the law, which include a “serious risk” to the pregnant mother’s health, or a fatal fetal abnormality. One exception that failed to pass is the case of rape or incest. This is a drastic change from current legislation, which allows abortions until 24 weeks with fewer restrictions than other Southern states.
In the press release for the bill, it states that modern medical and scientific knowledge was taken into account for the new bill. This knowledge was used to confirm that an unborn child has reached significant developmental milestones by the point of 15 weeks of gestational age. The term “gestation” refers to the calculation of the first day of the last menstrual period, rather than from the point of fertilization.
Senator Kelli Stargel helped with creating the bill and gave the following statement: “We have a duty to protect life. This bill safeguards innocent, unborn children with beating hearts, who can move, taste, see, and feel pain. In the half century since the Roe v. Wade decision, science has shown us that an unborn baby rapidly develops the functions and form of a child long before viability. I am grateful to my Senate colleagues for their support and look forward to seeing this pro-life legislation signed into law by Governor DeSantis.”
The famous Roe v. Wade case was a landmark decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. The outcome from the case was a ruling by the court to legalize abortion and protect pregnant women’s liberty who decide to get an abortion. The ruling took place on January 22, 1973 in a 7-2 outcome, which deemed that any state that banned abortions (aside from one to save the life of the pregnant mother) was unconstitutional under the Fourteenth Amendment.
The new bill would carry out the same exceptions written in Roe v. Wade for the prohibition on the third trimester abortions. The new bill is also meant to protect the safety of the pregnant mother and the baby, just with a shorter time frame. A new addition would be for the exception of the “fatal fetal abnormality” which is defined as a condition deemed terminal that would be incompatible with the outside world from the womb, and would result in the death of the baby during birth or shortly after. Typical fatal abnormalities in babies are not identified until the second trimester, so the bill states that a woman would be given the green light to get an abortion only if two separate doctors can prove in writing that the unborn child has a fatal fetal abnormality.
However according to Dr. Samantha Deans, an associate medical director with Planned Parenthood, pushed that most fetal anomalies aren’t detected by the 15 week mark. “You cannot perform an amniocentesis until the second trimester and generally speaking, we don’t perform an amniocentesis until 16 to 20 weeks. That’s just a medical fact,” Deans said.
The topic of abortion has been circling the U.S. in recent years, with states starting to push back against the Roe v. Wade decision. Texas is one example, which has now passed Senate Bill 8, a ‘radical expansion’ that allows anyone to sue a person who performs or aids in an abortion.
While Florida has not yet proposed anything that extreme, the newly passed abortion bill does have a big impact on women and their agency to receive a legal abortion. The Florida Senate voted 23-15 in favor of the legislation, which will go into effect July 1st if signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis.
What are the Responses?
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is very much in favor of the new bill, and at an event on Friday he stated, “These are protections for babies that have heartbeats, that can feel pain, and this is very, very late. And so, I think when you’re talking about late term, you know, that’s one thing. And so, you know, I think the protections are warranted.” DeSantis also said he planned to sign the bill ‘in short order’. However according to experts, most women don’t typically discover that they are pregnant until weeks four through seven.
On the opposing side, many Democrats were quick to broadcast their thoughts on the bill. Daniella Levine Cava, the Mayor of Miami-Dade County, tweeted “This senseless ban rolls back a woman’s basic dignity. More troubling is rejecting expectations for rape and incest, even for young girls. Abortion is a deeply personal decision, and silencing that decision is outrageous and wrong.”
Florida representative Anna V. Eskamani also took to social media to address her concerns about the bill. She shared the following statement via Twitter:
“HB5/SB146 is one of the most extreme anti-abortion and anti-freedom bills to ever pass the Florida Legislature. It is a direct assault on the people of Florida and our constitutional rights. Let me be clear: there is no such thing as a reasonable abortion ban. Nothing in this ban is moderate, it is extreme. And despite impassioned pleas by Democrats to pass amendments that would provide exceptions for rape, incest, and human trafficking none were accepted by the Republican majority. The only exceptions that do exist in the bill are very narrow, and need to be verified by two doctors, creating an unnecessary and undue burden to an already restrictive bill. This is a sad day for reproductive rights in Florida, but our fight is not over.”
The White House was not silent in their opposition of the bill. Vice President Kamala Harris referred to the legislation as being extreme by any standard. President Joe Biden took to Twitter to provide a statement on the bill: “Last night, the Republican-controlled Florida legislature passed a dangerous bill that will severely restrict women’s access to reproductive health care. My Administration will not stand for the continued erosion of women’s constitutional rights.”
Other U.S. States’ Abortion Bills
Florida is not alone in passing more restrictive reproductive laws. Two states who have also recently passed abortion bans are West Virginia and Arizona. Both have advanced a similar 15-week abortion ban bill. The West Virginia House of Delegates approved HB 4004 in an overwhelming vote, which is set to advance to the Senate. Arizona’s SB 1164 has been approved by the state’s Senate, which bans abortions and would even charge doctors who perform an abortion after the specific time frame.
The Supreme Court allowed the Mississippi law that banned abortions after 15 weeks, however it is unclear if they are leaning towards ending nationwide abortion. Chief Justice John Roberts was attempting to find a middle ground, allowing states to move up the abortion ban limit from 23 to 22 weeks. He claimed that 15 weeks is not a “dramatic departure” from viability.
Anti-abortion activists all over the United States appear to still seem hopeful that the court will strike down the nationwide legalized abortions. In a poll completed by the ABC News/Washington Post conducted back in November, 60% of Americans believe that the current Roe v. Wade law should be upheld. However, it is clear that the state of the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision hangs in the balance, and only time will tell to see how it progresses in America—and specifically in Florida.
If and when Ron DeSantis signs HB 5, it will go into effect starting July 1st, 2022.
Planned Parenthood – Planned Parenthood is a U.S. organization that provides affordable access to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care including lifesaving cancer screenings, breast health services, prevention and treatment of sexually transmitted infections, and transgender care. Planned Parenthood also provides sexual health education, birth control, and abortion care throughout the country. On their website you can read about the two ways of ending a pregnancy: with an in-clinic abortion or with an abortion pill. They make sure to state that both are safe and very common. Planned Parenthood is a safe place for all women to go if they need any advice or help.
Planned Parenthood Florida – Even with the new laws passing in Florida, women should not feel that they are alone in these life altering decisions. Florida has Planned Parenthood locations all across Florida that are here to help you in this difficult time. Whether you are in need sexual and reproductive health care, sexual health education, abortion care or just advice, you can reach out to them online or by phone.
Written by Karissa Key