TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Abortions after 15 weeks would be banned in Florida under a bill Republican senators sent to Gov. Ron DeSantis Thursday night, ending a bitter debate at the Statehouse as a decision looms of the Supreme Court of the United States could limit abortion rights in America.
DeSantis, a Republican, has previously signaled support for the proposal and is expected to sign it.
“I want abortion to be legal, safe and accessible, but I fear this bill will take us the other way, forcing women of means to travel out of state and those struggling economically to resort to potentially dangerous options,” said Sen. Lori Berman, a Democrat.
The measure comes as Republicans across the country seek to tighten access to the procedure after the U.S. Supreme Court signaled it would uphold a similar 15-week abortion ban in Mississippi and could cancel Roe v. Wade. A decision in this case is expected later this year.
Florida’s bill contains exceptions if the abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother, prevent serious injury to the mother, or if the fetus has a life-threatening abnormality. The state currently allows abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
As the measure moved through the GOP-controlled state house, the debates often turned emotional and revealing, with lawmakers recalling their own abortions and sexual assault experiences.
This week, Senator Lauren Book, a Democrat who turned the pain of being sexually abused by her nanny into a career helping other survivors, tearfully revealed that she was also drugged and raped by several men when she was a young teenager. She implored senators to allow exemptions for rape, incest or human trafficking.
“It’s not okay to force someone who was sexually assaulted and pregnant to carry that pregnancy to term if they don’t want to either, that’s just not the case,” Book said. “And if a woman or a girl needs more than 15 weeks to make up her mind, we should be able to give her that.”
In a separate exchange from when the bill was passed by the GOP-controlled House last month, Republican Rep. Dana Trabulsy told lawmakers she had already aborted but “all regret the days since”.
“It’s the right to life and giving up life is unacceptable to me,” she said.
Republicans have often said the bill was reasonable because it was not a complete ban on the procedure and that it gave women enough time to consider having an abortion, even in the case of rape. incest or trafficking.
“The only thing we’re asking in this bill is that whatever decision you make, you make it before the 15 weeks,” Republican Senator Ileana Garcia said.
GOP lawmakers in West Virginia and Arizona also introduced similar 15-week abortion bans similar to the Mississippi law being considered by the Supreme Court. Republicans in other states modeled their legislation on a Texas law that effectively banned abortions after six weeks.
Ahead of Thursday’s vote, White House officials hosted a roundtable with abortion rights groups and Democratic lawmakers on Florida’s bill as well as Republican restrictions in other states. In a statement about the meeting, the White House said, “In the face of these challenges, administration officials reiterated the administration’s commitment to exploring all options to protect reproductive health care.”
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