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Florida House votes to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy

Published on: 02/17/2022

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TALLAHASSEE — The Florida House voted early Thursday to ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest, putting the measure on track to reach Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.

The House approved the measure 78-39 after five hours of emotional debate that started Wednesday evening and stretched until two minutes past midnight.

Protesters forced a brief recess just before the vote. They chanted “my body, my choice” and “shame” before being escorted out of the House gallery.

The ban still has to clear the Senate, where it is expected to pass. Senate President Wilton Simpson and DeSantis have signaled their support.

Abortion after 15 weeks would be allowed if two doctors certify a “fatal fetal abnormality” that will “result in death upon birth or imminently thereafter.”

The legislation also would allow an abortion to be performed if it is deemed “necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life” or avert serious bodily injury.

Abortion in Florida is presently legal up until the 24th week of pregnancy.

Legislators on both sides of the issue shared how abortion had affected them personally.

Rep. Kristen Aston Arrington, D-Kissimmee, said she was raped by someone she knew. She asked how the limitations could affect other women who are raped.

Rep. Robin Bartleman, D-Weston, shared how she and her husband wrestled with a difficult decision over an abnormality detected during her pregnancy. Floridians won’t be able to make their own decisions if they face a similar medical complication, Bartleman said.

“When you get that news, you and your husband and your family have no decision,” she said. “It is taken away from you because of an arbitrary number — 15 weeks.”

Rep. Dana Trabulsy, R-Fort Pierce, said she had been raped and supports the “right to life,” even though she had an abortion when she was younger.

“It is something I have regretted every day since. ... I am ashamed because I will never get to know the unborn child I could have had,” she said.

Many Republicans argued that abortion is the taking of human life. Democrats countered that abortion is an established women’s right under both the U.S. and Florida constitutions.

“We should trust the women of Florida to make this decision,” said Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando. “This is not something with which the government should be involved.”

Rep. Erin Grall, the abortion bill’s sponsor, said she thinks the debate involves more than just a woman’s choice to have an abortion.

“Once a woman becomes pregnant, two uniquely independent human beings exist,” the Vero Beach Republican said. “I’ve never understood the ‘my body, my choice’ rhetoric when it comes to terminating a life.”

Her closing speech was interrupted by the chants in the gallery.

House Republicans rejected amendments on Tuesday that would have added exemptions for rape, incest and human trafficking. Democrats also tried unsuccessfully to reduce the number of doctors that must sign off on any abortion after 15 weeks from two to one.

Florida’s abortion bill ( HB 5 ) is modeled after Mississippi’s law, which the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on over the summer. Florida’s proposed ban doesn’t go as far as Texas’ law, which prohibits abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy and empowers citizens to enforce the law through lawsuits.

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Florida’s Constitution includes privacy protections that have been interpreted by the Florida Supreme Court in the past as protecting a right to abortion. That court is now reliably conservative with DeSantis appointees filling three of the seven seats.

The Senate Appropriations Committee is set to take up the House version of the abortion bill on Monday, the last hearing before it goes to the full Senate for a vote.

About 94% of the 79,648 abortions reported in 2021 in Florida occurred during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, according to statistics kept by the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

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