Florida’s abortion bill is Culture Wars’ latest battle
With the progress of Florida’s legislative session came a mush of controversial bills. One of the most debated is HB 5who passed 78-39 in the Florida House a few minutes after midnight, closing a session of the House that began the day before on February 16.
What is the controversy surrounding Florida House Bill 5?
It opens with benign and positive language regarding tobacco regulations and natal health. Controversy surrounds the second half of the bill, which proposes to cut off legal access to an abortion at 15 weeks after conception. Florida law currently legalizes abortion until the beginning of the third trimester at week 28 of 40 of pregnancy.
The bill provides exceptions if the fetus is not viable or if two doctors deem an abortion necessary to save the woman’s life. If a second doctor is not available, only one doctor can perform the abortion to save the woman’s life.
An amendment to allow exceptions in cases of rape is dead upstairs of the house.
Abortions have increasingly become a politically divisive issue despite the fact that struggles for reproductive rights date back to the 1900s. Wade from 1973 gave women fundamentalConstitutionally protected right to privacy in first-trimester abortion decision-making.
In 1992, Planned Parenthood v. Casey further ruled that states could not place a excessive load on women seeking abortions before viability outside the womb. The current viability threshold is approximately 24 weeks, for Casey.
Already, HB 5 has progressed through its 3 committees, seemingly fast-tracked into the GOP-controlled Florida House as the committee’s replacement with minor changes to the original, which were largely structural. His final destination in the Chamber was the plenary chamber where he was heard on February 17 and received heated comments from both sides of the aisle.
Opinions diverged between the representatives at the start of the deliberative process. Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, spoke on the bill in her first committee, the Professions and Public Health Subcommittee, alleging it was the “beginning of a rapist’s bill of rights”. The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, claims this “will save almost 5,000 babies a year”.
After this debate in committee, the bill was passed 12 to 6 along partisan lines, with 2 members absent.
The bill then passed its second committee, the Healthcare Appropriations Subcommittee, 10-5, still along party lines, then 14-7 in the third, the Health & Human Services Committee. All amendments to reduce the bill failed.
It should be noted that when Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, D-Orlando, questioned Grall about the constitutionality of the bill in the Second Committee, she admitted “It’s in conflict with the [Supreme] The Court’s current interpretation of the 14th Amendment.
After 2 days leading up to a third of discussion, HB 5 finally passed the Plenary in the early morning of February 17th.
The long-term fate of this law depends on the Senate and the Governor of Florida.
What is each side of the debate saying?
As is the case with most controversial laws, there was massive public outcry. During the public consultation for the first committee, many members of the public expressed himself.
The anti-abortion camp has received support from a wide range of people. Representatives from Florida Voice for the Unborn, the Florida Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida and the Florida Family Policy Council all made appearances.
These supporters brought many perspectives. Several advocated for the bill on the tenets of their religion, while some felt the bill was not tough enough. A doctor showed support based on the principles of the sanctity of life. The Republican Liberty Caucus chairman claimed it was amoral not to “see life” with modern imaging technology.
Among the pro-choice camp were representatives from Equality Florida, Florida Coalition for Transgender Liberation, Women’s Voices of Southwest Florida, League of Women Voters of Florida, American Atheists, ACLU of Florida and others.
Those who spoke noted that the bill restricted women’s rights to bodily autonomy and was clearly unconstitutional. Some have noted that women may not know they are pregnant at 15 weeks. A social worker noted that the bill goes against basic science and ethics. American atheists have argued that no specific religion should be allowed to impose itself in government, which some claim this bill aims to achieve.
Similar public comments were “heard” in other committees. Unfortunately, the many voices of pro-choice advocates fell on deaf ears.
Protesters came out to continue the fight as the bill was considered by the full House. Florida Planned Parenthood Action protested for hours outside the Florida Legislature earlier in the day, and some sat in the gallery during the discussion.
As Grall delivered his closing remarks, chants of “my body, my choice” erupted from the podium, delaying the vote and forcing a brief pause. Despite this, the bill passed and their efforts were crushed.
What’s the takeaway?
HB 5 marks a sad new chapter in Florida history. Despite the melancholy, this is in line with GOP efforts across the United States to find creative ways to downplay Roe and Casey. Due to the fairly concrete nature of the Supreme Court precedent, there has been a mixed approach to attacking abortion rights.
The first approach is to wait for a United States Supreme Court with enough anti-abortion justices to simply accept new precedent and overturn the precedent.
As this takes time, there is another approach: incrementalism. With each new variant of an anti-abortion bill, state lawmakers across the country are testing the waters to see if their flavor will ultimately be accepted. Texas is testing the constitutionality of a ban after 6 weeks while many others are testing a ban after 15 weeks. Essentially, they are gradually checking out what they can and cannot do.
Ultimately, they seem to be hoping that one of these tests slide through as sufficiently acceptable. Once a bill is allowed by the United States Supreme Court, even if it is by a simple refusal to hear the lower court’s case, the rights fall like dominoes.
Speak Guttmacher Institute, a pro-choice research organization, several states have some sort of law limiting abortion rights already in effect as of 2022. For example, 13 states require counseling about a fetus’ alleged ability to feel pain. pain, 12 states limit coverage to private plans, and 25 states require waiting periods between counseling and the actual procedure.
Plus, pushing more bills allows anti-abortion legislation to work — at least temporarily — while the challenges go through the backlogs of the justice system.
This new Florida bill, if the culture war trend continues, will likely be signed into law. Along with the fights against critical race theory and vaccines, this is a appeasement move by some in the GOP to build support from their base and push the worst restrictions of freedom.
Having already passed a chamber, it is up to the Florida Senate to run for or against Florida women.
If passed by the Senate and signed by the Governor, HB 5 would take effect in July 2022 and have immeasurable impacts on Florida’s future.
Check out other recent Florida Political Review articles here.
Feature Image: Protesters outside the U.S. Supreme Court during the hearing in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt Texas. Unmodified photo by Adam Fagen, used under a Creative Commons license. (https://bit.ly/335pFly)