Another extreme anti-abortion bill has been filed for the 2019 Florida legislative session, this one by the head of the state Republican Party.
Sarasota Republican State Sen. Joe Gruters filed legislation that would make it a crime for a woman to get an abortion at 20 weeks of pregnancy. Current Florida law allows a woman to get an abortion up to 24 weeks from her last menstrual period, according to the nonprofit Guttmacher Institute. The vast amount of abortions take place far earlier, in the first trimester, according to an analysis by Florida legislative staff.
Gruters’ “Florida Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act” is similar to legislation pushed by anti-abortion groups in other states. The laws prohibit abortion of a fetus “capable of feeling pain unless it is necessary to prevent a serious health risk” to the mother.
Gruters’ legislation (Senate Bill 558) sets that threshold at 20 weeks. Under the proposed legislation, an abortion can only be performed at 20 weeks or later if the mother is “at risk of death or a substantial and irreversible physical impairment of one or more of her major bodily functions, not including psychological or emotional conditions.”
A wide-ranging 2005 study that found a fetus was unlikely to feel pain until the third trimester of a pregnancy, or about 27 weeks. The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said in 2013 that no subsequent research had contradicted that study, according to reporting by the New York Times.
Gruters filed a similar bill when he served in the Florida House of Representatives, but it did not pass.
Amy Weintraub, reproductive rights program director for Progress Florida, called Gruters’ bill an “extreme” measure that “would outlaw abortion after a time that there are still medical reasons that a pregnancy needs to be terminated.”
Noting that approximately 70,000 abortions are performed in Florida each year and that there is popular support for abortion rights, Weintraub said “banning abortion procedures is out of touch with Florida values.”
Besides Gruters’ legislation, another restrictive anti-abortion bill has been filed by Rep. Mike Hill, a Pensacola Republican. Hill’s measure would prohibit a woman from getting an abortion if a physician detects a fetal heartbeat. A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks – so early that a woman may not know she is pregnant.
Hill’s proposal marks the first time a so-called “heartbeat” anti-abortion bill has been filed in Florida. Similar legislation has been filed in Congress and in at least ten states over the last decade.