TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — An abortion bill similar to one signed into law in Texas was filed in Florida on Wednesday that would ban most abortions in the state and would allow lawsuits against doctors who violate it.
The legislation filed by Republican Rep. Webster Barnaby immediately met with opposition from Democrats who want to preserve the right to legal abortions. Barnaby’s office said he wasn’t ready to comment on it.
“This bill is dangerous, radical, and unconstitutional. The hypocrisy of this attempt by Governor (Ron) DeSantis and Republicans in the state legislature to take away our rights while at the same time preaching ’my body, my choice’ when it comes to wearing masks is absolutely disgusting,” Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried said in a statement. Fried is a Democratic candidate to challenge DeSantis next year.
While similar bills have died in the Florida Legislature in past sessions, the debate has heated up since the U.S. Supreme Court chose not to block the Texas law that bans abortion when a so-called “fetal heartbeat” is detected, or about six weeks into pregnancy, before many women realize they are expecting.
Medical experts say the cardiac activity is not an actual heartbeat but rather an initial flutter of electric activity within cells in an embryo. They say the heart doesn’t begin to form until the fetus is at least nine weeks old, and they decry efforts to promote abortion bans by relying on medical inaccuracies.
After the Supreme Court decision earlier this month, GOP leadership began looking at what could be done in Florida. DeSantis said he thought the law was interesting and Republican Senate President Wilton Simpson expressed support for a similar law.
GOP House Speaker House Speaker Chris Sprowls said he’d like to see more abortion restrictions, but said any legislation has to be crafted to not only withstand federal law, but also the state’s constitution.
“I have always fought for unborn babies and their right to life, and the Florida House of Representatives has been a national leader in developing pro-life legislation,” Sprowls said through a spokesperson. “Our laws have to be strong enough to jump through multiple levels of judicial scrutiny. We look forward to bringing to the Floor a bill that saves every unborn life possible.”
DeSantis’ office said the legislation will be reviewed.
“Governor DeSantis is pro-life. The Governor’s office is aware that the bill was filed today and like all legislation, we will be monitoring it as it moves through the legislative process in the coming months,” DeSantis spokesperson Taryn Fenske said in an email.
Besides banning abortions after cardiac activity is detected, the bill would change all references to “fetus” in the state’s abortion laws to “unborn child.”
The bill calls for $10,000 civil awards per abortion for the doctor who performs the procedure or any defendants that “aided or abetted” the procedure. People would have six years to file a lawsuit after an illegal abortion is performed.
After Texas’ law went into effect, Republican lawmakers in Florida and other states said they would consider introducing bills using the Texas law as a model, hoping it provides a pathway to enacting the kind of abortion crackdown they have sought for years. Those states include Arkansas, Indiana, Mississippi, North Dakota and South Dakota.
“This gross excuse of a bill attacks women and birthing people who are seeking an abortion before they even know they are pregnant,” Democratic Rep. Anna Eskamani said in a statement. “Extreme attacks on reproductive health are not about policy, it is about control, shame, and will negatively impact communities who already experience barriers to accessing care.”