Florida Legislature Passes ‘Viability’ Abortion Restriction

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Florida Legislature Passes ‘Viability’ Abortion Restriction

Emily Crockett

The Florida legislature gave final approval on Friday to a bill that would further restrict later abortions in the state.

The Florida legislature gave final approval on Friday to a bill that would further restrict later abortions in the state.

HB 1047 passed the state senate on a mostly party-line vote of 24 to 15, and now heads to the desk of Republican Gov. Rick Scott.

Current Florida law prohibits terminating a pregnancy in the third trimester unless the procedure is necessary to save the life or protect the health of the pregnant person. HB 1047 narrows the definition of “health” in such a way that many conditions, including mental health issues, are not included.

The Supreme Court has long held that while states can ban abortion after viability, they cannot set a ban based on a specific point in a pregnancy, Elizabeth Nash, state issues manager for the Guttmacher Institute, told Rewire. Florida’s bill, she said, appears to be unconstitutional both because it restricts abortion after 25 weeks, and because it provides a weaker health exception than the Supreme Court requires.

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Twenty states, including Florida, have laws still in effect that ban abortion after a certain point in pregnancy, contrary to Supreme Court rulings.

The new law would require a doctor to perform an examination, including an ultrasound, to determine whether a fetus is viable, and certify in writing that a post-viability or third-trimester procedure is medically necessary.

The bill appears to be an attempt to ban abortion at progressively earlier points in pregnancy as medical technology advances. Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami), sponsor of a companion bill in the state senate, claimed that a “viability” ban could ban abortions as early as 20 weeks, although viability is usually considered to be between 24 and 26 weeks, depending on the pregnancy.

Before the vote, Sen. Gwen Margolis (D-Miami) introduced an amendment banning vasectomies for men, in an apparent attempt to make a point to the majority-male chamber about having reproductive choices dictated by the legislature. The amendment failed.