Florida Senate ready to consider 15-week abortion limit

A plan to ban abortions in Florida after 15 weeks is one step away from the governor’s desk. 

HB 5, which cleared the Florida house last week, was approved 13-6 by the Senate Appropriations Committee on Monday and is expected to head to the Senate floor next week.

The legislation seeks to lower the current limit on abortion from 24 weeks to 15 weeks of pregnancy. 

The bill's sponsors argue fetal viability limits have lowered thanks to medical advances and that Florida law should change as well. 

The bill allows for exceptions in cases where two physicians have determined a woman or girl’s life would be at risk because of the pregnancy or when a fatal fetal abnormality has been detected. 

The bill makes no exceptions for cases of rape, incest, or human trafficking, which has sparked some of the fiercest debates of this legislative session. 

PREVIOUS: Florida House passes 15-week abortion limit bill

"We know that it takes a long time for the survivors of sexual assault to share what happened to them," said Senator Lauren Book (D-Plantation). "Why is she being punished and put on a clock to make decisions when she’s having a hard time even parsing apart the things that have happened to her?" 

Book, a survivor of childhood sexual assault, has been one of the loudest voices in opposition to the bill. 

"I know that my colleagues on the other side of the aisle probably view rape, incest, or a pregnancy as the same, but we know survivors of rape, incest, and human trafficking are having to deal with a tremendous amount of trauma and need a little bit more time," said Book. 

She and fellow party members’ attempts to propose amendments that would make exceptions for cases of rape, incest and human trafficking have all been voted down in republican majority committees. 

"I think there’s something to be said that just because a child was conceived in rape or incest that that child cannot be loved," said bill sponsor Senator Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland). "I think that if for some reason you are an individual who believes that they cannot do that then this bill allows for up to 15 weeks for you to make that decision." 

The bill closely mirrors a Mississippi law that bans abortions after 15 weeks. That law has been used as a challenge to Roe v. Wade. 

Roe determined the court could not ban an abortion before fetal viability, but that standard has lowered since 1973. Fetal viability is now considered to be around 23 weeks of gestation. 

Both obstetric and pediatric societies recommend against attempting to resuscitate an infant born before 22 weeks, but in rare cases, at least two infants born at 21 weeks have survived. The Mayo Clinic classifies babies born at or before 25 weeks as extremely preterm and notes they often experience a series of serious medical complications if they survive. 

If passed the Florida bill would run counter to protections provided by Roe, unless the U.S. Supreme Court were to overturn the ruling. 

Florida Democrats have not indicated whether a court battle could be on the horizon should the 15-week ban become law.