At least a 100 people filled a committee room in the state Capitol Wednesday to speak about a proposed 15-week abortion ban that, if approved, could change the landscape for women’s reproductive rights.
It was the first hearing on the ban, and the vote Wednesday was 12 to 6 in favor of the legislation called HB 5. Five Democratic women lawmakers and one male lawmaker, Democrat Michael Gottlieb, voted against the bill. The others were Republicans and they voted yes.
The vote came following emotional, angry and passionate words in the audience and at the subcommittee meeting table, where lawmakers had to make decisions based on dramatically opposite views.
Republican State Rep. Erin Grall, sponsor of HB 5, shared that her own sister had gotten an abortion, and called the tens of thousands of Florida abortions in 2020 an atrocity. Grall represents Indian River and and part of St. Lucie County. Grall has shepherded other abortions bans, including a law in 2020 that requires parental consent for minors getting abortions.
Democrat Anna Eskamani of Orlando said the HB 5 bill is not moderate — it is extreme.
“There is no is such thing as a reasonable abortion ban,” she said.
She added: “It is the beginning of a rapist bill of rights.”
One man, Brian Perras of Pasco County, was told to leave the committee room after using the phrase “exterminating the Negro population.”
But several dozens got in line to share their views.
The bill would prohibit abortions “if the physician performing abortion determines the gestational age of the fetus is more than 15 weeks, based on the first day of the woman’s last menstrual period,” according to a legislative analysis.
The bill is similar to Mississippi’s 15-week abortion ban, which is pending before the U.S. Supreme Court following oral arguments in December.
There are two more steps that need approval before it goes to the full House floor for consideration. Also, the Senate would have to approve the legislation.
Democrat State Rep. Michele Rayner of St. Petersburg, said, “this bill adversely affects people who look like me.”
She also said, “It adversely effects people who may not have the means to get an abortion because we know this, people who have means will always find a way to have an abortion.”
Republican State Rep. David Borrero, of South Florida, said, “The time is now for Florida’s laws to reflect the realities of modern science. Humanity of a 15-week-old child in the womb is undeniable.”
Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, said in statement.
“Today, Republicans in the Florida House cast what could end up being the first votes on the way to banning abortion in our state. This is not what most Floridians want. In fact, this legislation is nothing more than a blatant attempt to advance a political agenda over sound science and medicine…
“Alarmingly, this bill also provides no exceptions for when a person is raped, even if they are a minor, and only very limited exceptions for when the pregnant person learns that there are serious fetal anomalies. In these situations, it is crucial for a pregnant person to have the opportunity to think through their options based on their unique situation in consultation with people they trust, including their physicians, loved ones, counselors, religious leaders, and others – but not politicians.
“This bill poses a serious threat to reproductive health, ignoring a pregnant person’s individual needs and circumstances. It is no surprise that doctors oppose abortion bans because they prevent health care providers from giving their patients the best health care possible in an individual situation – a right we all deserve to have.”
The legislative analysis reports that in 2020, there were 209,645 live births in Florida. That same year, there were 72,073 abortions performed in Florida.
Of those 72,073 abortions, the vast majority — 70,594 — were performed in the first trimester, meaning 12 weeks and under. Only 4,274 abortions were performed in the second trimester, meaning 13 to 24 weeks. No abortions were performed in the third trimester, according to the analysis.
–Imani Thomas and Issac Morgan, Florida Phoenix