TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Sixteen Republican lawmakers opted against voting for Florida’s new “Heartbeat Protection Act,” which prohibits women from getting abortions after six weeks of gestation.
Supporters of the bill argue that it will protect preborn boys and girls in the womb, while opponents believe a woman should have the legal right to terminate a fetus growing inside her body.
Republicans often run for office on a pro-life platform and receive endorsements from large pro-life lobbying groups and political action committees (PACs). However, nine GOP lawmakers voted against the new bill and seven more were absent during the vote.
OPPONENTS OF THE BILL
Representatives Sam Killebrew, Karen Gonzalez Pittman, Mike Caruso, Peggy Gossett-Seidman, Rick Roth, Chip LaMarca and Vicki Lopez voted against the “Heartbeat Protection Act” in the House. Senators Corey Simon and Alexis Calatayud opposed it in the Senate.
Additionally, Representatives Fabian Basabe, Chuck Brannan, Fiona McFarland, Jim Mooney, Paula Stark and Cyndi Stevenson were absent from the vote.
The Florida Standard contacted each of the Republican lawmakers who did not vote for the bill. Most of them did not respond.
“My vote speaks for itself,” Rep. Gossett-Seidman said in an email. “Everyone concerning this complex issue tries their best to make the best decisions.”
“I am personally pro-choice up to 12 weeks, with exceptions,” Basabe said. In a video posted last week on his YouTube channel, Basabe stated that he “will not negotiate life.” However, he also argued that members of both parties should find a way to “compromise.”
“After much thought, prayer and discussion with my family and clergy, I decided that the pro-life vote that I took last year did exactly what I had hoped it would,” LaMarca told the Sun Sentinel this week. “The 15-week bill strongly promotes life, while allowing for safe and legal, but exceptionally rare abortions. It is also where the vast majority of my district is on this important issue.”
“In the end, I voted against SB300 because I had some issues with the bill,” Lopez told The Florida Standard. “The majority of my district shared their positions on this issue and most were in favor of 12-15 weeks with exceptions, which was my position during my campaign.”
“I didn’t agree with giving rape or incest victims 15 weeks while giving all other women only 6 weeks when most women do not even know that they are pregnant,” Lopez continued. “I also had issues with the potential of men being falsely accused of rape or incest so that women would be able to qualify for an abortion after six weeks. I am, however, in favor of the provisions in the bill that would give women the necessary support they will now need with the passage of this bill.”
GOP DIVIDED ON ABORTION
When The Florida Standard asked House Speaker Paul Renner about the issue of abortion in November, he hinted at disagreement within the party.
“I can guarantee you members on both sides have very different opinions about what it means to be pro-life, so I think that will be a conversation we have going forward,” Renner said.
Polling indicates that GOP voters are divided on this issue as well. Last month a UNF survey reported that 61 percent of Republicans in Florida said they oppose banning abortions after six weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest, and 34 percent said they support such restrictions.
Sean Foreman, a political science professor at Barry University, told the Sun Sentinel that the issue varies significantly in different regions within the state.
“In north Florida, where you have more evangelical conservatives, this is a leading issue for them,” Foreman said. “But the Republican voters in Palm Beach and Broward counties generally are not as culturally conservative.”