TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — One of the most controversial bills of the legislative session passed the Florida Senate, which reduces the time limit for obtaining an abortion from 15 weeks to six – with exceptions for rape, incest or human trafficking.
Sponsored by Sen. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach), SB 300 was introduced amidst a renewed debate following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe. v. Wade last year. Throughout the past four weeks, it has been met with significant opposition from activists and Democrat lawmakers.
“The goal of this bill is to protect innocent life… Abortion has touched every single one of us, and we should grieve for what we have done as a country,” Grall said. "We should make certain that our laws reflect the strongest protections for innocent life.”
The bill also prohibits telehealth doctors from remotely administering abortion pills and allocates $30 million in general revenue to support the growth of pregnancy clinics.
THE HEARTBEAT PROTECTION ACT
Sen. Grall introduced an amendment to the bill that would rename SB 300 The Heartbeat Protection Act. “The purpose of the bill is to protect life. And a heartbeat can be detected at six weeks,” she said.
Sen. Lauren Book (D-Broward) pushed back on Sen. Grall: “At six weeks a fetus is the size of a tic-tac and there is no heartbeat. When you are drafting policy that will affect millions of women across Florida, it is crucial you use real, scientific data. This is not a heartbeat.”
Sen. Tina Scott Polsky (D-Palm Beach) supported Book: “We’re pulling at heartstrings by changing the name and we are pretending it is something it is not. This is a full ban on abortion.”
Sen. Grall’s amendment was adopted, officially changing the name of the bill.
Democrat senators continued to express their opposition to the bill. “We need to stop shaming women for having abortions. This bill is cruel and inhumane to the families of Florida,” said Sen. Lori Burman (D-Palm Beach).
Burman’s sentiments were echoed by Sen. Tracie Davis (D-Duval): “We are standing on the backs of rural and poor Floridians and telling them what they can and cannot do to their own bodies. Here we are, deciding something for millions of women in our state, just because of how we feel about something personally. There is no way I will be able to support this today.”
“You’re giving a sack of cells more rights than living, breathing girls in this state. If you vote for this ban, things will get worse. Today’s battle is almost over but we will not give up the fight. This was never about life – it is and always has been about control,” Sen. Book said.
“WE HAVE A RESPONSIBILITY TO ADVOCATE FOR LIFE”
Republican senators voiced their support of the bill, only to be interrupted by protestors who shouted from the galleries.
“One of my core principles is that life begins at conception. I don’t remember a time I didn’t feel this way. I would never shame or stigmatize anyone who feels differently than me about this fundamental belief of mine,” Sen. Burton said, in response to shouts from the gallery.
Sen. Calatayud explained that although she is pro-life, she had made a promise to her constituents that she would not vote to change the current 15 week abortion ban that the state has in place: “I will be voting no on this bill today because I made a promise to my constituents. But I am happy that SB 300 champions a recurring investment in supporting children and their families.”
Sen. Calatayud’s speech was met with so many shouts from protestors that the session was paused so police could escort the rowdy crowd out of the building.
Upon returning to session, Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez (R-Miami-Dade) expressed her support of the bill: “We cannot continue to turn a blind eye from unborn children. We have a responsibility to advocate for life. We have to turn away from this culture of death.”
“THESE LIVES DESERVE PROTECTING” 3
Sen. Grall concluded the third reading of SB 300 by reiterating the purpose of the bill: “Abortion presents a profound moral question. But the supreme court has placed this decision back into the hands of the state. We live in a time where the consequences of our actions are an afterthought. We’ve normalized the taking of life as healthcare. A culture of life can change the face of this state and country.”
SB 300 officially passed the Senate floor, with every Republican voting in favor of it except for Sen. Corey Simon (R-Dixie etc.) and Sen. Calatayud.
While the Florida House has a companion bill, it will not be voted on until after session resumes, following Easter. However, Governor DeSantis has indicated that he would sign the six-week limit into law.