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15-Week Abortion Ban Bill Passes First FL House Committee

HB 5 Sponsor Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach
HB 5 Sponsor Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach

A Florida House panel, Wednesday, advanced a controversial bill (HB 5) that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. The proposal includes exceptions, including pregnancies that pose a risk to the life of a woman seeking an abortion and cases of fetuses with a fatal abnormality that have not reached viability. The measure does not include exceptions for rape or incest.

The House Professions & Public Health Subcommittee approved the bill on a 12- 6 party-line vote with Democrats in opposition. The measure is similar to Mississippi’s new abortion restriction legislation, that has been taken up by the U.S. Supreme Court.

The proposal is titled, Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality. “We will be saving approximately nearly 5,000 babies a year with this bill being in place,” said bill sponsor Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach according to the News Service of Florida.

“There is no prohibition on abortion in this bill. There is a prohibition on how long you can obtain an abortion. So, there’s nothing that prohibits a woman from getting an abortion up to 15 weeks.”

State Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, said the title is misleading.

“Here we are with a bill that not only ignores the fact that abortion access has proven to decrease infant mortality because people can have power in deciding when they are ready to become parents, but it is a bill that tries to pit against the reproductive health rights community and we’re not here to play that game,” said Eskamani.

The News Service of Florida reports other Democrats on the committee voiced their opposition as well, including Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa. “We should make them legal and accessible, and then we should stay the hell out of the way,” said Driskell.

Federal rulings have long held that states cannot ban abortions prior to viability, and a privacy clause in Florida’s constitution has been found by the state supreme court to uphold those same parameters. Rep. Grall said she expects those holdings will be overturned.

“The court just sometimes gets it wrong and I think the court has gotten it wrong when it comes to the viability standard and we anticipate that being overturned at the federal level and the way the supreme court has interpreted the privacy clause in the state of Florida puts us in a unique position where that will obviously be taken up again by the court should we pass this law, but the history of that privacy clause and the way it was interpreted also suggests the court just got it wrong,” said Grall.

The House bill would have to pass two more committee stops before it could go before the full chamber. A Senate companion bill (SB 146) has yet to be heard in committee.