By a strong majority, the Florida House passed a bill early Thursday morning that would protect thousands of unborn babies every year by banning abortions after 15 weeks.
Action News JAX reports the pro-life bill passed just after midnight in a 78-39 vote, and now heads to the state Senate, which also appears likely to pass it. Gov. Ron DeSantis supports the bill.
The Reducing Fetal and Infant Mortality Act (House Bill 5) would ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. Exceptions would be allowed if the mother’s life is at risk or the unborn baby has a fatal disorder. The bill, which would go into effect July 1, also includes measures to reduce infant mortality and a requirement that abortion facilities report suspected human trafficking cases to the state.
Lawmakers debated for hours before passing the bill, with emotional and sometimes heated testimony. At one point, security removed pro-abortion protesters from the House gallery after their chants interrupted the debate, the Tampa Free Press reports.
State Rep. Dana Trabulsy, R-Fort Pierce, shared how deeply regrets her own abortion as she encouraged her fellow lawmakers to pass the bill, according to the report.
“I was always pro-life, until I had a choice. And then I had a choice, and I selfishly made the choice to have an abortion,” Trabulsy said. “Not because something was wrong with my baby, not for any other reason than it just wasn’t convenient for me. It didn’t fit my narrative, it didn’t fit my lifestyle. I didn’t want a baby, so I had an abortion. It’s something that I have regretted every day since.”
Pro-life leaders estimate the bill could save as many as 5,000 unborn babies from abortions every year in Florida, and its lead sponsor, state Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, expressed strong hopes that the U.S. Supreme Court soon will rule such legislation constitutional.
“There’s significant fetal development by the age of 15 weeks. But there is also a case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court, currently under consideration, at 15 weeks,” Grall said, according to the local news. “… working within that infrastructure of 15 weeks gives Florida its best opportunity to save a significant number of babies, very quickly, after the court’s decision.”
The Supreme Court heard a case about a Mississippi ban on abortions after 15 weeks in December, and a ruling is likely in June. Because of the conservative majority on the high court, many hope the justices will uphold the law and allow states to protect unborn babies from abortion again.
Currently, Florida allows abortions for any reason up to 24 weeks.
The bill passed largely on party lines, but Republican state Rep. Rene Plasencia, of Orlando, voted against it and Democrat state Rep. James Bush, of Miami, voted for it, the Free Press reports.
Several Democrat lawmakers tried to weaken the bill by introducing more than a dozen amendments, but the majority rejected them all.
Florida Voice for the Unborn celebrated the victory for life early Thursday morning on Twitter.
“After a marathon debate, HB 5 (the 15-week abortion ban) OVERWHELMINGLY passed the Florida House 78-to-39 just after midnight!” the pro-life organization responded. “A special thank you goes to the bill sponsor, pro-life champion Rep. @ErinGrall!”
The legislation appears likely to become law. State Senate President Wilton Simpson supports the pro-life bill, according to Florida Politics, and DeSantis recently said he “welcomed” pro-life legislation. Polls consistently show strong public support for banning abortion after the first trimester as well.
In January, Florida First Lady Casey DeSantis also spoke up for the rights of unborn babies.
“On this National Sanctity of Human Life Day, we are reminded that life is incredibly precious and sacred,” she wrote on Twitter. “And in Florida, @RonDeSantisFL will never stop fighting for the lives of the unborn and giving a voice to the voiceless.”
Earlier this month, Andrew Shirvell, executive director of Florida Voice for the Unborn, said the legislation could save approximately 5,000 unborn babies from being killed in abortions every year.
Currently, because of Roe v. Wade, states are prohibited from banning abortions before viability, about 22 weeks of pregnancy. However, that could change this summer if the Supreme Court upholds the Mississippi law.
TAKE ACTION: Contact Florida senators to urge support for the bill… Contact Florida state senators.