A Republican state representative in Florida has introduced a bill that is very similar to the Heartbeat Act recently enacted in Texas.
State Rep. Webster Barnaby filed the “Florida Heartbeat Act” (HB 167) on Wednesday.
Barnaby’s 40-page proposal mirrors the Texas bill in that it would ban a doctor from performing the procedure after a “detectable fetal heartbeat,” which is typically at about six weeks. It will also allow for civil lawsuits against abortionists or those who “aid and abet” women who obtain the procedure past the cut off point.
“Abortion; Requires physician to conduct test for, & inform woman seeking abortion of, presence of detectable fetal heartbeat; prohibits physician from performing or inducing abortion if fetal heartbeat is detected or if physician fails to conduct test to detect fetal heartbeat; provides exceptions; authorizes private civil cause of action for certain violations; provides for civil remedies & damages,” the summary of the bill states.
The bill carves out exceptions if the pregnancy poses a risk to the life of the mother — as well as exceptions for rape, incest, domestic violence, or human trafficking.
“However, those seeking an abortion due to said exceptions require documentation, such as a restraining order, medical record, or court order, to legally do so,” News4JAX reports.
The act states, “… a fetal heartbeat is a key medical predictor that an unborn child will reach live birth, and cardiac activity begins at a biologically identifiable moment in time, normally when the fetal heart is formed in the gestational sac … the State of Florida has a compelling interest from the outset of a woman’s pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the unborn child, and in order to make an informed choice about whether to continue her pregnancy, the pregnant woman has a compelling interest in knowing the likelihood of her unborn child surviving to full-term birth based upon the presence of cardiac activity.”
The bill also changes the definition of abortion to use the words “unborn child” instead of “fetus.”
According to a report from Fox 13, Barnaby told reporters that he had “no comment at this time” about the legislation.
Critics of the bill already have plenty to say, however.
Democrat Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book has referred to the bill as an “outright attack on women.”
“Women’s fears have been realized with the filing of an extreme Texas-style anti-abortion bill in the Florida House. Rooted in rhetoric instead of science, the bill cruelly strips women of their right to choose what happens to their own bodies,” Book said in a statement.
House Minority Co-leader Evan Jenne told the News Service of Florida, according to the Fox 13 report, that he’s not surprised by the bill and expects it to become law.
“None of us are shocked, surprised or anything like that. We knew it would be here. Look, we have every intention of putting up a severe, very strong fight whenever that bill comes to the floor,” Jenne said. “Chances are that it is probably going to be law. We need to do everything we can to either water it down or make it so it is constitutionally unviable.”
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried did not hold back in her statement blasting the bill.
“This bill is dangerous, radical, and unconstitutional. The hypocrisy of this attempt by Gov. DeSantis and Republicans in the state legislature to take away our rights while at the same time preaching ‘my body, my choice’ when it comes to wearing masks is absolutely disgusting. They have made it abundantly clear by banning masks in schools and refusing to apply for money to help hungry kids that they don’t actually care about children’s lives. It’s obvious that this is nothing more than a shameless attempt to try to control women and our bodies,” Fried’s statement said. “To every woman in Florida who sees this news today and is afraid for your rights and your future: I promise you that I will do everything in my power to stop this bill from becoming law.”
Incoming Republican House Speaker Paul Renner told reporters that he will “hear from all sides,” but wants to move towards making the state more pro-life.
“We’re not going to follow Texas’ lead necessarily, we’ll follow our own lead. And again, hear from all sides, have a real deep conversation about the balancing of interests on both sides and land in a place that I hope moves us in a direction towards a pro-life decision,” Renner told reporters. He added that, it’s “a hard thing, once you get weeks in, to argue that that’s not a human life.”
Governor Ron DeSantis has also signaled support for pro-life legislation in the state, and has a 100 percent pro-life voting record.
In July, DeSantis joined 10 Republican governor’s who called for the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade and hand control of abortion back to the states. Following the Heartbeat Act being enacted in Texas earlier this month, the governor said it was “interesting” and that he was “going to look more significantly at it.”
The Florida Heartbeat Act will be up for consideration during the legislative session that will begin in January. If voted into law, the bill will go into effect on July 1, 2022.