Reproductive Rights protest in Reno, Nevada in 2021, is one of many demonstrations documented across the country as abortion rights are being legislated. Photo credit: Manny Becerra

Florida Congress passes bill banning abortion after 15 weeks, Gov. DeSantis to sign ‘in short order’

4 mins read

Conservative lawmakers strike another win on the legislative battle over what women can do with their bodies versus what the government allows.

Last week, a majority of Florida legislatures voted to ban abortions barely outside of the first trimester of pregnancy. After a reportedly rocky path to the floor, House Bill 5 passed with a 23 to 15 Senate vote on March 3. 

Currently, Florida only bans abortions in the third trimester. Yet, starting July 1, 2022, patients must make a decision before they are three months and three weeks pregnant. 

“[House Bill 5 offers] protections for babies that have heartbeats, that can feel pain, and [anything past 15 weeks] is very, very late,” expressed Florida Governor Rick DeSantis. “I think the protections are warranted, and I think that we’ll be able to sign that in short order.”

The bill also sets to use abortion data to increase human trafficking reporting and increase anti-tobacco education. Included in the legislation are the state’s plans to clamp down further on reproductive rights by expanding the fetal and infant mortality review committees (FIMRs), along with the Perinatal Quality Collaborative Initiatives. Another aspect of the law budgets in a morbidity programming mandating certain physicians and health facilities to submit performance data to the Department of Health. In turn, the information will be given to a local healthy start coalitions to report findings and recommendations developed by the committee.

| Watch: Pregnancy and giving birth during COVID-19

Amidst the U.S Supreme Court (SCOTUS) considering a new liberal-leaning member, the six-to-three conservative majority is likely to uphold the opinion of their stateside Republican counterparts. All the while, increasing the likelihood that the landmark Roe v. Wade decision will be overturned. Of which, would mean that abortions would be banned across the U.S., and the government will dictate how and who pregnancy affects. 

“In the half century since the Roe v. Wade decision, science has shown us that an unborn baby rapidly develops the functions and form of a child long before viability,” stated Senator Stargel in a press release. “I am grateful to my Senate colleagues for their support and look forward to seeing this pro-life legislation signed into law by Governor DeSantis.”

Notwithstanding, Florida joins Texas and Mississippi—red states located in the Bible Belt—that are also seeking to regulate reproductive rights. At the moment, women in the aforementioned states journey across their borders to carry out their procedures at neighboring clinics. In the later third of last year, the latter two state legislative branches blocked abortion at six and fifteen weeks respectively.

Notably, opponents like Florida House Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (D-District 47) and Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine (D) point out that the measure seems to include the same restriction for unwanted pregnancies that may have resulted from rape or other forms of sexual violence. “This senseless ban rolls back a woman’s basic dignity. More troubling is rejecting exceptions for rape and incest, even for young girls. Abortion is a deeply personal decision, and silencing that decision is outrageous and wrong,” Mayor Cava tweeted

To add, the bill overlooks serious health conditions that might push a woman to get such a late abortion in the first place. “Patients seeking care beyond 15 weeks are often in some of the most difficult circumstances, either because of serious health complications for the pregnant person, severe fetal anomalies, or because of harsh life circumstances,” Chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, Dr. Sujatha Prabhakara asserted

That said, legislatures may be ignoring the possible cost of the unborn baby’s life, as well as the mother’s life, too. Dr. Prabhakaran says such “real-life decisions” cannot be overgeneralized nor should medical decisions be left in lawmakers’ hands.

Reproductive Rights protest in Washington DC in October 2021. Photo credit: Gayatri Malhotra

Abortion or adoption?

The bill has a plethora of implications ahead of it. On one hand, proponents of the move say it will promote and help strengthen the nuclear family unit. As well, they contend that legislatures will be there to aid families every step of the way. “Every abortion kills a special and unique human being who deserves protection under the laws of this state and the chance to grow up in a loving family,” opined Senate President Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby). 

Sen. Simpson, a white adoptee, continued, “Floridians can be proud that we live in a state that not only protects innocent, unborn life, but also supports children and parents.”

Yet, critics say an implication of the bill could lead to more unwanted pregnancies. Hence, more children as wards of the state; an already stressed and resource-deficit program. To date, the AdoptUSKids organization reports that approximately 19,000 Floridian children are currently in foster care. About 600 of children waiting for permanent placement are without identified families.

According to 2019 data compiled by the Kaiser Family Foundation, the race of women who get abortions in Florida are pretty evenly distributed: 35 percent of Black women, 31 percent of white women, and 30 percent of Latinas.

Moreover, the Florida Department of Children and Families reported Black children make up 23.4 percent of the children population, while multiracial kids make up about 4.55 percent; and white children comprise 71.71 percent In June 2021 findings. 

Yet on their Disproportionality Index for children in out-of-home care, they state that multiracial children scored 2.55 and accounted for nearly 12 percent of in-home removals. African American children scored 1.22 and made up almost one third of removals, as compared to their white peers at 0.83 and making up 59 percent of removals. The percentages are near-identical for their proportion of children in out-of-home care in general. 

So despite making up significantly smaller percentages of the population, children of color disproportionately make up the foster care system. 

To worsen matters, Florida Children First purports that there is a “looming crisis” in the state’s foster care system. They estimate 477 children have died in the past six years as a result of the state having “shied away from removing children from their homes.” To worsen matters, they claim the state had a total of 4,561 foster homes before adding 1,463 more homes. Afterwards, they closed another 1,125. Therefore, a lack of foster homes to go around. 

. . . .

Making a new law more problematic , the criminalization of abortion carries  a plethora of unknown legal questions and implications. If  an expecting mother from Florida travels  to a neighboring state for a procedure, will she be protected in that juristiction or could she be charged with murder after House Bill 5 becomes law? Also, parents are not able to waive child support obligations under state legislation in Florida. So, would parents to unborn children still be liable for paying child support for children older than 15 weeks in the womb

Since the government does not seem to have foundational questions about physical autonomy and pregnancy figured out, maybe prenatal requirements or restrictions should take a backseat for now. 

Gov. DeSantis is set to sign the legislation into law soon.

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