Florida GOP lawyers on Thursday advanced a new abortion ban that would make it a crime to provide an abortion past six weeks, with some exceptions.
The Republican-controlled House Healthcare Regulation Subcommittee voted 13-5 along party lines to approve HB 7.
Republican Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, who proposed the bill, said the law “recognizes the importance and value of the life of innocent, unborn human beings.”
“The bill that’s before you is not solely a reflection of my personal beliefs, but a result of listening in an attempt to build consensus around a policy that supports life,” she said.
“Our ability to enjoy life, and the pursuit of happiness began with life. We must defend the right to life for thousands of boys and girls who deserve to experience life, find love, and enrich the lives of others,” Florida House Speaker Paul Renner said.
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The proposal is moving along while a 15-week abortion ban signed into law by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis last year is still being challenged. The new proposal would only go into effect if the current law is upheld.
There would be an exception to save the woman’s life and exceptions in the case of pregnancy caused by rape or incest until 15 weeks of pregnancy. In those cases, the woman would have to provide documentation such as a medical record, restraining order, or police report.
The bill requires so-called “abortion pills” to be dispensed in-person by a physician and prohibits the use of telehealth for abortions – including medication abortions. It also prohibits the use of state funds to pay for the travel out-of-state to obtain the procedure.
Opponents said that by the time a woman finds out she’s pregnant, it’s either too late to get an abortion or there’s too little time to arrange one. They said trying to obtain an abortion will be even more difficult for women in rural areas with limited health care.
Democratic Rep. Christine Hunschofsky or Parkland has described HB 7 as a “de facto abortion ban.”
“We talk about being a free state, and this is literally the antithesis of that,” Hunschofsky said, per WUSF Public Media.
Earlier this week, Vice President Kamala Harris, during a stop in Florida, called the state’s proposed six-week abortion ban “extreme.”
“A six-week ban would function as a regional ban,” she told reporters. “This issue is about women’s autonomy, their freedom to decide whether and when to have children. These laws also endanger women’s health, putting their lives in jeopardy.”
DeSantis, who is widely expected to run for president, has indicated he will back the proposed ban.
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The House bill has one more committee stop before being heard by the full chamber. A similar Senate bill has been assigned to two committees and will be heard next week. The House and Senate leaders have expressed support for the legislation.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.