Local

Controversial Florida bill advances allowing civil lawsuits for wrongful death of an ‘unborn child’

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The Florida House committee on Wednesday greenlit a controversial measure that would empower parents to pursue civil lawsuits for the wrongful death of an “unborn child.”

>>> STREAM ACTION NEWS JAX LIVE <<<

The decision, hailed by supporters as a step towards justice, has drawn sharp criticism from opponents who argue the bill’s ramifications could be far-reaching due to the bill’s vague language.

The bill (HB 651), seeks to expand existing legislation, granting parents the right to seek damages in cases where wrongful acts or negligence result in the death of an “unborn child.”

Despite assurances from its supporters that the bill is not intended to be abortion-related, it has sparked intense opposition from abortion rights advocates who fear it could jeopardize access to abortion services and expose healthcare providers to legal risks.

Florida House and Senate bill sponsors also directed efforts last year to pass a law that seeks to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy. The ban would go into effect if the Florida Supreme Court upheld a 2022 law restricting abortions to after 15 weeks.

However, the sponsors maintain that this year’s bill is not abortion-related.

“We are talking about human beings. We are talking about the human experience, the experience of the parents who have suffered a real loss,” remarked House sponsor Jenna Persons-Mulicka, R-Fort Myers.

However, dissenting voices, including Rep. Yvonne Hinson, D-Gainesville, raised concerns over potential effects on doctors and women considering abortions.

“The most dangerous 60 days in the state of Florida is the legislative session... If you really want to stop abortions, get a vasectomy,” she asserted.

Mark Delegal, a lobbyist representing The Doctors Company, the largest insurer of physicians in Florida, echoed worries over the bill’s impact on healthcare providers and the state’s already strained OB/GYN workforce.

Florida has reportedly the highest medical-malpractice insurance rates for obstetricians and gynecologists in the entire country, according to Delegal. Obstetricians in the Miami area pay an estimated $226,000 a year in premiums, compared to $49,000 in Los Angeles.

“We have concerns and oppose this bill because it expands liability for healthcare providers, and that’s why we object to it,” Delegal stated.

The proposal’s advancement comes amid a backdrop of heightened tensions over abortion rights in Florida.

With the state Supreme Court deliberating on a proposed constitutional amendment to go before voters in November aimed at protecting abortion rights, the bill’s trajectory highlights the broader national debate surrounding reproductive rights.

READ: Arguments set in February on proposed Florida abortion rights constitutional amendment measure

While the bill cleared the House Judiciary Committee by a 15-4 vote along party lines, concerns persist among opponents. Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried labeled the bill “extremely dangerous.”

“The potential misuses are staggering — purposefully broad language could help abusers weaponize the judicial system to harass and punish their pregnant partners with costly civil lawsuits,” Fried stated.

Some Republicans also expressed concerns about the bill, with Rep. Paula Stark, R-St. Cloud, labeling the measure “way too broad.” While supporting the bill, she stated she would vote against it on the House floor unless it was made more restrictive.

Despite strong opposition, Persons-Mulicka stressed the bill’s scope, asserting it aimed to address a specific grievance.

“You know that I’m not afraid to shy away from a discussion about abortion or the value of life or the overarching theme of personhood,” she said. “But none of that is what this bill is about. It’s very narrow in nature. It’s about the mother. It’s about the father. It’s about the value of the life of an unborn child to them, and it’s about a real loss … that was caused by the wrongdoing of another person.”

Florida criminal law includes penalties for the illegal killing of an unborn child, but the law includes exceptions for abortion. Democrats have urged Persons-Mulicka to amend her bill to mirror the criminal law.

Kara Gross, the legislative director and senior policy counsel for the ACLU of Florida disputed that the bill “is not about helping grieving families” for pregnancy loss.

“This deceptive bill is about making it even harder for Floridians to access the abortion care that they need,” Gross said.

Persons-Mulicka went on to accuse opponents of the bill of having “misplaced fear.”

“I agree there’s been a lot of talk of fear, but that’s fear-mongering,” she said. “What liability are they trying to escape? … We’re talking about wrongdoing and harm and we’re talking about human beings.”

As the bill heads to the full House and a similar Senate bill awaits further review, Florida finds itself at the epicenter of a contentious debate with implications reaching far beyond its borders.

[SIGN UP: Action News Jax Daily Headlines Newsletter]

Click here to download the free Action News Jax news and weather apps, click here to download the Action News Jax Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Action News Jax live.

William Clayton

William Clayton, Action News Jax

Digital reporter and content creator for Action News Jax


”Draft Draft Night in Duval: Thursday at 7PM on FOX30

Most Read