We are well aware of the current turmoil plaguing our country when it comes to abortion access. Many southern and centrally located states have either implemented or are planning to pass legislation that restricts abortion access. Texas passed one of the nation’s strictest abortion bills, which bans abortions as early as six weeks. It prohibits abortions whenever an ultrasound can detect a “fetal heartbeat”. Additionally, the bill does not provide exceptions to rape or incest.
Mississippi passed a 15-week abortion ban with little room for exceptions except for severe medical emergencies or fetal abnormalities. Should abortion providers violate this law their license would be revoked.
The Supreme Court recently stated they were open to ruling in favor of Mississippi’s ban; it is clear the highest court in the land is willing to undermine Roe v. Wade. Ruling in favor of Mississippi’s ban would effectively overturn this legislation where pregnant people have a right to an abortion up until 24 weeks of pregnancy.
Florida’s proposed abortion ban
A 15-week abortion ban recently passed its first House committee last Wednesday. tee This bill closely resembles Mississippi’s abortion ban. Filed by Senator Kelli Stargel and Representative Erin Grall SB 146 HB 5 titled Fetal and Infant Mortality Reduction drew support from both the governor and the house speaker.
It does not provide exceptions for rape or incest, but does provide MINOR exceptions if it threatens the life of the mother or if there is a fetal abnormality. Florida is on its way to passing one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the state’s history.
What is even more concerning is that abortion rates have declined in recent years by the thousands. Furthermore, Florida has some of the least restrictive policies on abortion access in the south. That does not mean individual counties and the state make it hard for people to access reproductive healthcare. However, this does mean many people travel from states with strict abortion laws or even have bans already in place.
Let’s look at a few statistics on the abortion rate here in Florida.
- In 2017, 71,050 abortions were provided in Florida. Not all may have occurred in the state, in fact some would have traveled to Florida to receive reproductive healthcare. Depending on the county some citizens of Florida may have had to travel out of state as well.
- A 10% decline in the abortion rate occurred between 2014 to 2017.
- If we check the 2020 and 2021 abortion statistics published by the state of Florida we will find a decrease of 17,088 cases from last year. We went from 74, 868 abortion cases to 57,780 cases.
- There are in total 71 clinics in the state. Which means in 2017, 73% of the counties in Florida had clinics that did not provide abortions.
What we see here is not only a dramatic decrease in abortions but still a lack of access to adequate reproductive healthcare.
Previous abortion bans almost passed during 2021 legislative session
Two abortion bans almost made it through committee; one was a ban on abortions after 20 weeks and a fetal diagnosis ban. Should a prenatal disability diagnosis show the fetus has an abnormality, this would prohibit the parent from accessing an abortion.
The 20-week abortion ban was designed to target those who face complex circumstances which often target the health of the pregnant person. For instance, a fetal diagnosis could show an anomaly putting the person’s health at risk. Or perhaps another prediction could be there is no life outside the womb should they carry to term. An extremely traumatic birth that could damage the mental health of the parent.
The fetal diagnosis ban would have banned pregnant people from receiving an abortion due to prenatal disability diagnosis. Should the doctor knowingly perform the procedure aware of the fact it is due to this disability diagnosis, they would be breaking the law. The pregnant person would not be prosecuted.
The stakes we face if we pass this ban
Florida has some of the least restrictive abortion laws in the south. Even so, it is incredibly hard to find a provider that will conduct the abortion. Currently, out of 67 counties, 17 counties have only one abortion clinic.
The Florida legislator has passed around two dozen abortion restrictions. These include mandatory ultrasound, parental consent for minors, and prohibiting public funding of abortions except in cases that involve rape, incest, or endangering the life of the parent. Furthermore, this particular ban is wildly unpopular across party lines. A Marist National Poll found 59% of Republicans, 61% of Democrats, and 53% of Independents oppose a heartbeat ban.
Pro-choice legislation in Florida
Thankfully, there is one bill moving through committee that would protect an individual’s right to an abortion. Filed by Senator Lori Berman and Representative Ben Diamond the Reproductive Healthcare Rights, HB 709/ SB 1036 would ban any state or local governments from hindering a pregnant person’s access to an abortion. The Senate version of the bill would allow the person seeking an abortion to take legal action against any entity standing in the way of them having one. This bill took portions from the Texas bans and created a bill that defends a pregnant person’s right to reproductive health care. With a largely conservative House and Senate, this bill will be incredibly hard to pass.
While it is great to see representatives fighting to protect access to reproductive healthcare, with a majority Republican legislator it likely will not make it through the House or Senate. Currently, the abortion ban is being fast-tracked through the legislator. Should this bill pass, it will merely issue a death sentence to all forms of abortion access in the state of Florida. Not just for citizens of the state but those who travel to access reproductive healthcare as well.