Florida Senate Passes 6-week Abortion Ban: ‘Life Is Sacred and Must Be Protected’

Florida Senate Passes 6-week Abortion Ban: ‘Life Is Sacred and Must Be Protected’
Florida State Sen. Ileana Garcia asks people in the Senate gallery to "be quiet" during debate over Florida’s six-week abortion ban, in Tallahassee, Fla., on April 3, 2023. (Alicia Devine/Tallahassee Democrat via AP)
Tom Ozimek
4/4/2023
Updated:
4/4/2023
0:00

The Florida Senate on April 3 passed a bill prohibiting abortions after six weeks, a measure backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis that prompted demonstrations at the state’s capital, which resulted in the arrest of a state senator and the Florida Democrat Party leader.

The state Senate voted 26-13 in favor of the bill, while the House version of the bill—which is nearly identical—advanced out of committee last week and is expected to be voted on soon.

“For decades now, Florida has been a nationwide leader in defending the rights of the unborn. The Heartbeat Protection Act will make Florida a beacon of hope for those who understand that life is sacred and must be protected,” said state Sen. Erin Grall, a Republican who sponsored the bill.

“This bill represents an unprecedented opportunity to protect innocent life, and to stand with the brave moms who choose life for their babies,” Grall added.

Either bill could be approved by the other chamber and sent to DeSantis’s desk as early as this week to be signed into law.

Florida currently prohibits abortions after 15 weeks, and a six-week ban would align Florida more closely with the abortion restrictions of other Republican-controlled states.

The new bill will only take effect if Florida’s 15-week ban is upheld in an ongoing legal challenge that is currently before the state Supreme Court.

If the proposal does become law, it would be a political win for DeSantis on an issue important to Republican primary voters ahead of his potential White House run.

“We’re for pro-life. I urge the legislature to work, produce good stuff, and we will sign,” DeSantis said in February when asked about a six-week abortion ban.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions from the media in the Florida Cabinet following his "State of the State" address during a joint session of the Florida Senate and House of Representatives at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., on March 7, 2023. (Cheney Orr/AFP via Getty Images)
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis answers questions from the media in the Florida Cabinet following his "State of the State" address during a joint session of the Florida Senate and House of Representatives at the Florida State Capitol in Tallahassee, Fla., on March 7, 2023. (Cheney Orr/AFP via Getty Images)

More Details

The bill makes exceptions for abortions when the mother’s life or health are at serious risk—excluding psychological health. There are also exceptions in cases where the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest until 15 weeks of pregnancy.

“Our bill also includes strong and clear exceptions for rape, incest, and human trafficking, in addition to those already available for the life of the mother,” Grall said in a statement.

“We also clarify the existing exception for the horrible situation when parents are facing the heartbreaking diagnosis of a fatal fetal abnormality.”

The bill clarifies that the exception for fatal fetal abnormalities is available until the third trimester and not until viability.

It would also require that the drugs used in chemically-induced abortions could only be dispensed in person by a physician and cannot be delivered by mail or courier.

The new measure also includes $30 million in new funding to support pregnant women and families, while also providing additional counseling and nonmedical material assistance such as car seats, cribs, and baby formula.

Reactions, Arrests

The bill’s passage drew praise from pro-life groups and condemnation from advocates of greater access to abortion.
“Sixty-two percent of Floridians support protecting unborn children from abortion when their heartbeat can be detected, including 61 percent of Independents and 58 percent of women,” SBA Pro-Life America’s State Policy Director Katie Daniel said in a statement.

“Florida’s life-saving heartbeat protection legislation not only represents the will of people by bringing the Sunshine State into line with 19 other states that protect babies with beating hearts, but also by funding vital services for women and families,” Daniel added.

Groups opposed to the measure sought to portray the forces behind it as “extremists.”

“Governor Ron DeSantis and other anti-abortion extremists are forcing this bill through the Florida legislature, ignoring that Floridians are opposed to banning abortion,” the ACLU said in a post on Twitter.
“Without the ability to make reproductive decisions for one’s own body, women cannot participate equally in our democracy,” the League of Women Voters of Florida said in a statement.

The legislation was opposed by Florida Democrats, some of whom staged a protest outside the Florida State Capitol, leading to several arrests.

“Florida Democrats will not back down in our defense of abortion rights. Our Chair made that clear tonight,” Florida Democrats said in a statement on Twitter.

The party said that Nikki Fried, chair of the Florida Democratic Party, and Lauren Book, Florida’s senate minority leader, were arrested at the sit-in protest.

Images and videos shared on social media showed the two women and other demonstrators handcuffed by police.
The Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) said in a statement that protesters against the abortion ban were told they would have to leave after sunset, but 11 people refused to leave and were arrested for trespassing despite “numerous” requests to leave.

“TPD encourages individuals exercising their First Amendment right of peaceful assembly to do so in accordance with the law,” adding that it supports “non-disruptive demonstrations.”

The bill would have larger implications for abortion access throughout the South, as the nearby states of Alabama, Louisiana, and Mississippi prohibit the procedure at all stages of pregnancy, and Georgia bans it after cardiac activity can be detected, which is around six weeks.

Tom Ozimek is a senior reporter for The Epoch Times. He has a broad background in journalism, deposit insurance, marketing and communications, and adult education.
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