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Florida bill would authorize wrongful death suits on behalf of the unborn

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A legislative push to allow for wrongful death suits to be brought on behalf of the unborn could have ramifications on abortion rights in Florida.

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State Senator Erin Grall (R-Fort Pierce) is sponsoring legislation that would allow for wrongful death lawsuits to be brought on behalf of the unborn, creating opportunities to sue when a pregnancy is terminated due to a car crash, an error made by a doctor or an illegal abortion.

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“This is about the value of a life and that there is an economic value to a life,” said Grall during the bill’s most recent committee stop Friday.

But reproductive rights groups, the ACLU, and Democratic lawmakers have taken issue with the fact the bill applies the definition of ‘personhood’ to the unborn from the moment of conception.

RELATED: Meaning of ‘viability’ at issue as FL Supreme Court considers letting voters weigh in on abortion

“They are attempting to grant civil liabilities to a fetus, which means they’re attempting to define when life begins,” said State Representative Anna Eskamani (D-Orlando), who worked for Planned Parenthood before being elected to the Florida House.

Eskamani argued the bill would expose not only abortion providers, but the entire medical community to lawsuits and increased medical malpractice insurance rates.

Florida already has some of the highest rates in the country.

“It creates an ecosystem where you’re just not going to want to practice in Florida,” said Eskamani.

There’s also the question of how the bill might impact a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at restoring abortions rights in Florida to levels seen before Roe V Wade was overturned.

RELATED: Florida asks state Supreme Court to keep abortion rights amendment off the November ballot

Fetal personhood was an issue raised by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Carlos Muñiz during a recent hearing set to determine whether the initiative could be placed on the November ballot.

“I don’t know that I could kind of affirmatively say that the term natural person doesn’t as a matter of just sort of ordinary meaning include the unborn,” said Muñez.

Andrew Shrivell with Florida Voice for the Unborn said the bill combined with the Chief Justice’s line of questioning could lay the groundwork for a legal challenge if the amendment passes.

RELATED: New Florida bill proposes ban on manufacture, selling, mailing of abortion pills beyond state lines

“It would be another tool in our arsenal and I think that’s probably why the Florida abortion industry is so desperate to stop it,” said Shirvell.

Eskamani on the other hand said she believes the state constitution does not grant fetal personhood, and such a challenge would be unlikely to succeed.

“They’re trying to set up another legal challenge to basically say that abortion would be murder, and thus not be permissible in any case, despite the state constitution outlining that clear demotion,” said Eskamani.

The legislation still has one more committee stop in both chambers before it will be ready for floor votes.

The Florida Supreme Court has until April 1st to determine whether the reproductive rights amendment will be allowed to go before voters.

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If it gets the green light, the measure would need to get 60 percent support from voters to be adopted into the state consitution.

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