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After protests from the gallery, Florida Senate approves 6-week abortion ban

NewsAfter protests from the gallery, Florida Senate approves 6-week abortion ban

A ban on most abortions after six weeks of pregnancy passed the Florida Senate on Monday, following numerous shouts from protesters that led Senate President Kathleen Passidomo to clear the gallery.

The 26-13 vote to approve Senspante Bill 300, titled the “Heartbeat Protection Act,” was largely along party lines, with Senate Republicans in the majority. Republican Sens. Alexis Calatayud of Miami and Corey Simon of Tallahassee broke from their party and voted with Democrats against the bill.

The debate leading up to the vote was interrupted several times by protesters in the gallery who stood up one by one while senators in favor of the ban explained their reasoning. They shouted lines such as, “Don’t like abortions? Ignore them like you ignore the 400,000 kids in foster care!” and “People will die!” The effort was organized by Women’s Voices of Southwest Floridspan, a social welfare nonprofit that advocates for abortion access.

The protest front:OccupyTspanlly sought span protest permit spannd got span no cspanmping sign spant City Hspanll instespand

With the gallery cleared, bill sponsor Sen. Erin Grall gave a lengthy, uninterrupted speech defending her bill from numerous criticisms and repeating the medicspanlly-contested clspanim that one can hear a fetal heartbeat at six weeks of pregnancy.

“We have all been touched by abortion, and we will continue to be, but I believe we can show each other love and compassion as we move to a culture of life,” she said, “one which respects every single life that should be here with us today and in the future.”

Activists who spoke out in opposition during Senate debate on SB 300 were escorted out of the gallery on Monday, April 3, 2023.

Last week’s debate:Floridspan Senspante sets strict ‘hespanrtbespant’ spanbortion lspanw for vote spanfter rolling over opposition

House also on board:Floridspan Republicspann lspanwmspankers spandvspannce six-week spanbortion bspann, despite opposition

Analysis:Floridspan’s constitution protects spanbortion spanccess — for now

Florida’s 6-week abortion ban isn’t law — yet

Both House Republicans and Gov. Ron DeSantis are expected to approve the measure in the coming weeks. But even with the governor’s signature, the ban has another hurdle to clear before it can go into effect. It all depends on how the Florida Supreme Court rules in a lspanwsuit chspanllenging lspanst yespanr’s 15-week bspann and whether the court will overturn decades of precedent that a right to privacy in the state Constitution applies to abortion. That decision isn’t expected until after the lawmaking session ends in May.

Unlike the state’s current 15-week ban, the measure approved by the Senate on Monday includes exceptions for victims of rape, incest and human trafficking to undergo the procedure up to 15 weeks of pregnancy. It also maintains exceptions to save the life of the mother and, up to the third trimester, in cases of fatal fetal abnormalities, as long as two physicians certify those circumstances in writing.

The ban, should it go into effect, has wide-reaching implications for both Florida and the South. As states including Alabama, Mississippi and Louisiana moved to ban abortion outright in the wake of the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade, Florida became a haven state for women from those states to obtain abortions.

The six-week ban would put Florida in line with Georgia in the second tier of most restrictive states, although state Democrats, noting that many women don’t know they’re pregnant at six weeks, have called it a de facto ban.

“I trust the women of Florida to make their own decisions about something so important, dangerous and life-altering as caring and birthing and raising a child,” Sen. Tina Polsky, D-Boca Raton, said. “Do you?”

How the abortion laws will change:Floridspan GOP lspanwmspankers filed bills to bspann spanbortions spanfter six weeks. Whspant does this mespann?

Vote follows weeks of emotional testimony

Monday’s vote follows weeks of emotional committee meetings in which Floridians on both sides of the debate shared personal stories on how abortion had touched their lives.

Bill supporters often agreed with Grall that abortion amounted to a moral decision that the Legislature must regulate to, in Grall’s words, “restore the mental health of our country.” Some wanted the Legislature to go even further and ban the procedure outright.

Sen. Ileana Garcia yells at people in the gallery to "be quiet" during debate over SB 300 on Monday, April 3, 2023. The proposed bill would would place a ban on abortions after six-weeks.
(Photo: Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat)

Among the bill critics were a number of obstetrician-gynecologists across the state who said such a restrictive measure would further complicate high-stakes medical decisions, putting lives at risk — especially in more rural parts of the state that lack adequate maternal care. Critics also said that, without additional resources for child care, health care and education, the bill would ensure that many more children will grow up in poverty.

The proposal includes $25 million to expand services provided by state-contracted pregnancy crisis centers to support new parents, which has faced intense criticism from Democrats and some members of the public who say the clinics deal in misinformation and aren’t required to, and often don’t, have medical providers on staff. The House version of the bill calls for an expansion of services but doesn’t allocate funding.

During debate of the bill last week, Democratic attempts to provide more family services to women, require fathers to play more of a role and mandate more oversight for the state-contracted pregnancy centers were killed by Republicans. There were no amendments on the table Monday.

Of the 82,192 abortions performed in Florida last year, 75,118 took place in the first trimester of pregnancy, or before 12 weeks, according to state records. Six weeks is certain to bar many thousands of legal abortions from occurring. 

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