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Florida Senate no longer appears to be a roadblock for abortion restrictions

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

  • Abortion clinics say they’re already implementing new measures to determine how far along women are in their pregnancies and them afford procedures.
  • Women’s health clinics support the 15-week ban, calling it a ‘first step’. They say they stand ready to help women carry their pregnancies to term by proving counseling, financial assistance, and helping women find jobs.

Legislation banning nearly all abortions after 15-weeks of pregnancy now appears poised to become law in Florida.

The bill cleared the House late Wednesday night and will come up for a vote in its final Senate committee Monday.

However, abortion restrictions haven’t traditionally had an easy path through the process.

There have long been efforts to roll back abortion rights in Florida, but over the past five years, the Senate has often acted as a roadblock.

Of the restrictions proposed since 2017, abortion bills cleared the full House three times only to die in the Senate, often without a single hearing.

In 2020 the Senate finally bucked, and a requirement for minors to get parental consent for an abortion cleared both chambers.

Just two years later, lawmakers are now looking to reduce the time a woman can get an abortion by nine weeks.

Terry Sallas-Merritt with a Woman’s Choice, a Jacksonville abortion provider, finds it hard to believe the abortion debate has gotten to this point in Florida and around the country.

“I remember protesting before 1973 and I feel like a lot of women my age are going are we doing this again?,” said Sallas-Merritt.

But there are others like Nancy Bashan, who heads Women’s Help Center, and a pro-life organization that provides women with non-abortion pregnancy resources.

“You know there are only three countries in Europe that abort babies after 15 weeks,” said Bashan.

She said she believes advances in medical science have shifted public opinion on abortion.

“The ultrasounds today clearly show that an unborn baby at six, seven, eight weeks is not a clump of cells, which is what women have been told for decades,” said Bashan.

But Sallas-Merritt argues what has really changed is the makeup of the courts.

Both the state and US Supreme Court now have a solid conservative lean.

“It seems like this is the first year we’ve had such a terrible, terrible threat to our right. Most of the people that we know or we see have been born into a world where abortion was a right for them and was accessible,” said Sallas-Merritt.

Even though the passage of the 15-week ban seems all but guaranteed at this point, abortion rights advocates like Sallas-Merritt argue the fight is far from over.

Legal challenges at the state level are sure to come, even if the US Supreme Court allows Mississippi’s similar law to take effect.

MAIN ABORTION BILLS IN FLORIDA 2017-2021

2017: HB 19 - Private cause of action for physical & emotional injury from abortion

Passed two House Committees, never heard in Senate

2018: HB 1429 – Bans Dismemberment abortions

Approved by the House, never heard in Senate

2019: HB 1335 Parental consent for minor seeking abortion

Approved by the House, dies after passing one Senate committee

2020: SB 0404 Parental consent for minor seeking abortion

Clears both chambers, signed into law

2021: HB 1221 Bans disability abortions

Approved by the House, never heard in Senate

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