TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA — Florida lawmakers, emboldened by a super-majority, have begun discussions about placing further restrictions on abortion in the upcoming legislative session.
In April 2022, Governor DeSantis signed the Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality Act, which prohibits all abortions after 15 weeks of gestation. “House Bill 5 protects babies in the womb who have beating hearts, who can move, who can taste, who can see, and who can feel pain,” DeSantis said in a news release shortly after he signed the bill.
“Life is a sacred gift worthy of our protection, and I am proud to sign this great piece of legislation which represents the most significant protections for life in the state’s modern history,” the governor added.
ARE FURTHER RESTRICTIONS ON THE WAY?
This year’s incoming Senate President Kathleen Passidomo (R-Naples) told the Tampa Bay Times that she would support limiting the procedure after 12 weeks as long as lawmakers give an exception for rape or incest.
“I went on record on the abortion bill in support of an exclusion for rape and incest, and I’d like to see that,” Passidomo told the Tampa Bay Times. “And I think in order to accomplish that, I think we would have to reduce the weeks. I don’t have a problem going to 12 weeks,” she added.
Incoming House Speaker Paul Renner (R-Palm Coast) said the House would likely support additional restrictions. Renner is pro-life but said he wanted to hear from his colleagues in the House and Senate before taking any steps on the issue.
“I believe that life begins at conception and ends at natural death. All lives matter. All lives are worth living. I am committed to making sure that Florida is a state that values life, not just by limiting abortions but also by protecting the lives of the born. I look forward to seeing us protect the life of the born and the unborn even more in 2023,” State Rep. Joe Harding (R-Ocala) told The Florida Standard.
John Stemberger, President of the Florida Family Policy Council, explains on the group’s website that Florida has a state version of Roe vs. Wade. The case, known as “In Re T.W.” and decided by the Florida Supreme Court in 1989, created a state right to abortion using a privacy clause found in Florida’s state constitution.
“Even liberal commentators expect the court to eventually overturn Florida’s abortion ‘right,’ Stemberger wrote. “So, at this point, our thirty-three years of work have paid off with winning elections and getting great judicial appointments, and we are set to see a similar reversal of Florida’s Roe vs. Wade.”
Pro-life groups want Florida lawmakers to pass a “heartbeat bill,” which would ban abortions after 6 weeks – before many pregnancies are even detected. John Stemberger, President of the Florida Family Policy Council, says the “heartbeat bill” is the most likely scenario because it would align Florida with other states that have banned abortions completely or banned them after six weeks of gestation.
“As the governor has recently stated: we are better when everybody counts. Though everyone won’t be born in perfect circumstances, every life deserves a chance,” Bryan Griffin, Press Secretary for Governor DeSantis, told The Florida Standard.
“The governor is proud of the 15-week pro-life protections that he signed into law in April, as a baby in gestation beyond 15 weeks is fully formed, can feel pain, and has a heartbeat. We look forward to working with the legislature to further advance protections for innocent life,” Griffin added.
“PROUD” OF THE 15-WEEK BAN
Democrat and state Rep. Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando) and other Democrats argued that both DeSantis and Rubio refused to discuss abortion leading up to the election. But DeSantis made his position clear during his only debate with opponent Charlie Crist.
In his opening statement during the debate with Governor Ron DeSantis, Crist brought up the abortion issue, stating that there was a “stark contrast” between the two candidates – one who believes in keeping abortion accessible and one who does not.
When DeSantis responded to the moderator’s question, he said he was “proud” of the 15-week ban he signed into law earlier this year. DeSantis then went after Crist for supporting “selective-sex abortions” and “dismemberment abortions, where they literally will tear the baby limb from limb.”
Senator Rubio signed on as a co-sponsor of a U.S. Senate bill that would ban abortions at 15 weeks in states that do not already have tighter restrictions. “I would rather be right and lose an election than wrong,” Rubio said at a campaign event with Christian leaders covered by Channel 10 in Miami.