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Abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy would be restricted under these Florida bills

Kelli Stargel (WLRN)

As the 2022 legislative session started Tuesday, two influential Republican lawmakers filed proposals that would prevent doctors from performing abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

The bills (SB 146 and HB 5), filed by Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, and House Judiciary Chairwoman Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, largely mirror the abortion restriction in a Mississippi law that is before the U.S. Supreme Court.

The proposals also will add a highly volatile issue to the 60-day legislative session that kicked off Tuesday with a State of the State address by Gov. Ron DeSantis.

House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, quickly backed the House abortion bill, which also addresses issues related to curbing infant mortality.

“The Florida House remains steadfast in our commitment to Florida’s children, both born and unborn,” Sprowls said in a prepared statement. “HB 5 significantly narrows the available window for elective abortions while providing new resources and programs to reduce infant mortality in Florida. This bill was the result of the hard work of many members, and I’d like to particularly thank Chairs Grall and Burton for their leadership on this important issue.”

DeSantis alluded during the speech to having “an opportunity to strengthen protections for the right to life, without which the other rights mean little.” Speaking to reporters later, he said he thinks a 15-week limit “makes a lot of sense.”

Democratic lawmakers and a coalition of groups known as Floridians for Reproductive Freedom have scheduled a news conference Wednesday to push back against additional abortion restrictions.

“Every person should have the freedom to make their own decisions about their health and their bodies — including whether to get an abortion,” Aurelie Colon Larrauri, of the Latina Institute for Reproductive Justice Florida, said in a prepared statement Tuesday. “No one should have their most personal medical decisions controlled by politicians.”

Stargel and Grall have long backed placing additional restrictions on abortions. During the 2020 legislative session, for example, they teamed to sponsor a bill that required minors to receive parental consent before having abortions, a measure that DeSantis signed.

Speculation has swirled for months about the Republican-controlled Legislature placing further restrictions on abortions during the 2022 session. That speculation has been fueled, at least in part, by the U.S. Supreme Court considering the Mississippi law and a Texas law that effectively prevents abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy.

The Supreme Court heard arguments Dec. 1 on the Mississippi law, spurring widespread opinions that the court’s conservative majority will uphold the law — or possibly go further in striking down the landmark Roe v. Wade abortion ruling.

The new Florida bills would include exceptions to the 15-week limit to protect the lives of pregnant women or to “avert a serious risk of imminent substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman.” Also, it would include an exception for fetuses that have not reached viability and have fatal abnormalities.

The bills do not include an exception for rape or incest.

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