Florida Republicans Propose 15-Week Abortion Ban With No Exceptions For Rape Or Incest

The GOP-led state aims to become the latest to copy Mississippi’s extreme abortion ban, which has already reached the Supreme Court.

Florida Republican lawmakers introduced a 15-week abortion ban on the first day of the state legislature’s 2022 session this week.

State Sen. Kelli Stargell (R) and Rep. Erin Grall (R) proposed the companion measures, S.B. 146 and H.B. 5, on Tuesday, quietly tucked inside legislation to revise the state’s Tobacco Education and Use Prevention program.

The bills would ban abortion after 15 weeks with no exceptions for rape or incest. The only exceptions would be in cases where the mother is at risk of serious injury or death, or when the fetus has a fatal abnormality. Directors at medical facilities that perform abortions would be required to report “the number of infants born alive or alive immediately after an attempted abortion.”

The narrative that babies are sometimes born alive during an attempted abortion is false and one that pro-choice advocates have battled for years. Abortions later in pregnancy are already very rare ― 1.4% of all abortions take place at 21 weeks or more ― and if a child were actually born during a failed abortion, there are already laws to protect the baby.

Currently, Florida allows abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, or up to the first trimester.

Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) told reporters on Wednesday that he would support a 15-week abortion ban if it landed on his desk. “I think that’s very reasonable and I think that’s very consistent with, you know, being supportive of protecting life,” said DeSantis, who said he hadn’t yet seen the legislation.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R) also was supportive. “The Florida House remains steadfast in our commitment to Florida’s children, both born and unborn,” Sprowls said in a statement. “H.B. 5 significantly narrows the available window for elective abortions while providing new resources and programs to reduce infant mortality in Florida.”

The Florida measure is similar to a 2018 Mississippi 15-week ban currently before the Supreme Court. That case, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is expected to be decided in June.

If the Supreme Court’s conservative majority upholds the Mississippi law, it could be the decision that guts or overturns Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 high court case that protects a person’s right to get an abortion. An anti-abortion victory would transfer power to the states, allowing each to set their own standards on abortion care.

Florida lawmakers are clearly preparing for the high court to uphold the Mississippi ban. If the Florida bills are signed into law, the 15-week abortion ban would go into effect on July 1 ― after the Mississippi case is decided.

Florida’s proposed 15-week ban is not as extreme as Texas’ new six-week abortion ban that deputizes private citizens to enforce it. But many advocates and pro-abortion rights lawmakers in the state cautioned against viewing a 15-week ban as any less harmful.

“The deeply personal decision of whether and when to bring a child into this world should be in the hands of people and persons they trust, not the politicians,” Rep. Lois Frankel (D-Fla.) said in a statement to HuffPost. “This bill proposed in the Florida State Legislature is a continuation of Republican-led efforts to strip people of their freedom to access a safe, legal abortion.”

Florida was actually the first state to propose a copycat of Texas’ six-week abortion ban. State Rep. Webster Barnaby (R) introduced H.B. 167 in September, mirroring the Texas law almost word for word and including a section on deputizing private citizens with a reward of at least $10,000.

Reproductive rights advocates had predicted the conservative Florida Legislature would introduce a copy of the Texas law to make a 15-week ban seem less extreme.

“We think that they’re going to use [the copycat bill] as a way to pass something that is closer to a Mississippi-style ban and be able to say, ‘Hey we listened to people and this isn’t the extreme thing they did in Texas,’” Damien Filer, a communications consultant with Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida, told HuffPost in October. “Our feeling is that they’re going to position something closer to the Mississippi bill as the kinder, gentler, abortion ban.”