In Florida, a bill sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis late Thursday would ban abortions after 15 weeks, ending a tense debate in the statehouse as an imminent U.S. Supreme Court decision may limit abortion rights nationwide.
DeSantis has previously stated his support for House Bill 5 and is expected to sign it into law.
“I want abortion to be legal, safe, and accessible, but I fear this bill moves us in the other direction, forcing women with means to travel out of state and those struggling economically to resort to potentially dangerous options,” said Sen. Lori Berman.
The bill comes as Republicans nationwide move to restrict access to the procedure after the U.S. Supreme Court signaled upholding a similar 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi. The court’s decision, which would overturn Roe v. Wade, is expected later this year.
The Florida bill contains exceptions if the procedure is necessary to save a mother’s life, prevent serious injury to the fetus, or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. Currently, Florida allows abortions up to the 24th week of pregnancy.
As the measure moved through the GOP-controlled statehouse, debates were often tense and even emotional. Some of the state’s lawmakers recalled their own abortions and related experiences with sexual assault.
During a house session, Senator Lauren Book revealed she was drugged and raped by multiple men when she was a young teenager. She asked senators to permit exemptions in the bill for instances of rape, incest, or human trafficking.
“It’s not OK to force someone who’s been sexually assaulted and impregnated to carry that pregnancy to term if they don’t want to; it’s just not. … if a woman or a girl needs more than 15 weeks to decide, we should be able to give that to her,” said Book.
Last month, Rep. Dana Trabulsy recounted she previously had an abortion but noted that she has “regretted it every day since.”
“This is the right to life and to give up life is unconscionable to me,” she said.
Republican lawmakers have repeatedly said the bill is fair because it is not a complete ban on abortion and still offers women enough time to consider whether they want the procedure, even in cases of rape, incest or trafficking.
“The only thing that we’re asking in this bill is that whatever decision you make, you do it before the 15 weeks,” said Senator Ileana Garcia.
Lawmakers in West Virginia and Arizona have similarly introduced 15-week abortion bans, much like the Mississippi law under review by the Supreme Court. Other states have modeled legislation after a law in Texas which bans abortions after six weeks.