A controversial proposal that would prohibit doctors from performing abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy passed its second hurdle on Thursday after a fiery protest broke out following public testimony.
The bill (HB 5), sponsored by State Representatives Erin Grall and Jenna Persons-Mulicka, passed in the House Health Care Appropriations Subcommittee with a 10-5 party-line vote. The measure seeks to ban most abortions once the 15-week mark of pregnancy has passed. The legislation does not come with exceptions for rape or incest. Floridians may, however, obtain an exception in the case of such a fetal abnormality after getting written testimony from two doctors.
Today’s vote did not come without fireworks, as students activists began chanting, “Let her speak!” in protest as State Representative and chairman Bryan Avila moved to close public testimony in the interest of time. The committee took a brief pause as law enforcement cleared the room of those disrupting the hearing.
The meeting also featured passionate debate from both sides of the political aisle. Opponents of the bill argued that HB 5 is “unconstitutional” and strips aways people’s ability to make a “private decision” for their health.
“I’m voting no for all of the people in my life, who I love, who’ve gotten abortions and I know it was state before in another committee, but everyone who’s in this room and everyone who’s outside of this room loves someone who’s had an abortion too,” said Democratic State Representative Carlos Smith in his closing remarks.
The legislation is one of the most hot-button issues of the 2022 legislative session and is similar to a Mississippi law that is playing out on a national stage as the U.S. Supreme Court weighs a case that could overhaul abortion rights.
A companion bill in the Senate (SB 146), filed by Senator Kelli Stargel, has yet to be heard during the 60-day legislative cycle as the third week of session comes to a close.
Governor Ron DeSantis, who is up for re-election in 2022, has signaled in recent weeks that he would sign the bill if the Republican-led legislature got it across the finish line.
“I have not seen that particular one, but obviously I’m supportive of 15 weeks. I mean, I think that’s very reasonable and I think that’s very consistent with, you know, being supportive of protecting life,” DeSantis told reporters earlier this month.
“So, we’ll work with them as they kind of get through that process, but I think that will be something that we’ll be able to sign, and I think a lot of people would be happy with that.”
The legislation was reported favorably in its first stop last week, passing with a 12-6 vote in the Judiciary Committee. The bill will now head to its next hearing in the Health & Human Services Committee.
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