Florida bishops welcome advancement of 15-week abortion ban

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appoints judges to Miamis Eleventh Judicial Circuit Court March 27 2019 Credit Hunter Crenian Shutterstock Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, March 27, 2019. | Hunter Crenian/Shutterstock.

The Florida senate on Thursday passed HB 5, a bill introduced by State Rep. Erin Grall, which would ban abortions after 15 weeks gestation. The bill now awaits the governor’s signature. 

The Florida Catholic bishops’ conference called the bill’s March 3 passage “an incremental, yet important, step.”

“While we continue to look forward to the day when the full protection of unborn life is recognized in law, we are encouraged that HB 5 further limits the grave harm that abortion inflicts upon women and children,” said Christie Arnold, associate for social concerns and respect life.

The 23-15 vote in the State Senate was along party lines. The bill had passed the House in February.

The bill would prohibit all abortions after 15 weeks, unless two doctors certify in writing that the abortion is necessary to save the pregnant woman's life or “avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman other than a psychological condition.” The bill also includes an exception for the case of a fatal fetal abnormality. 

Existing Florida law bars abortion after 24 weeks, when the child is deemed viable.

The Charlotte Lozier Institute, the research arm of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List, estimates that 3,334 abortions at 15 weeks’ gestation or later were performed in Florida in 2020, based on data from the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has indicated his support for the bill, and has signed other restrictions on abortion. After DeSantis signed a new law in 2020 requiring parental consent for a minor's abortion, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops praised the effort for reducing the "grave harm" of abortion.

The proposed Florida law is similar in scope to a Mississippi law currently being considered by the Supreme Court, which also bans abortions after 15 weeks. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the Mississippi law is expected around spring or summer this year.

Florida lawmakers also recently introduced a version of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act in the state's House and Senate. The bill would prohibit elective abortions after 20 weeks "probable gestational age," the point at which some data suggests an unborn child can feel pain. That bill has yet to be voted on.

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