Florida House committee to hear bill banning abortions after 15 weeks; other GOP measures advance

A Republican effort to ban abortions in Florida after 15 weeks of pregnancy will go before House lawmakers Wednesday for its first committee hearing.

The legislation is similar to a Mississippi law argued before the U.S. Supreme Court in December that is widely expected to be upheld. Republicans hope that such a decision could pave the way for a change in Florida.

Currently, there is a 'right to privacy' clause in the state constitution that has been used to limit abortion restriction before a fetus is viable. For now, Florida law allows abortions up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.

Another bill filed in the Florida Senate is even more restrictive. It would ban most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected and would allow citizens enforcement through civil suits. However, lawmakers and advocates agree the piece is not likely to gain traction during the current legislative session.  

RELATED: Florida lawmakers introduce legislation to ban abortions after 15 weeks

Meanwhile, Governor Ron DeSantis' push to ban critical race theory from schools and from workplace training is moving forward. The Republican-controlled Senate Education Committee approved the bill Tuesday.

The proposal would not ban teachers from leading discussions on topics like sexism, slavery, racial oppression, or segregation. However, bill sponsor Manny Diaz, a Republican representing Hialeah, says classroom instruction and curriculum may not be used to indoctrinate or persuade students to a particular point of view.

"What we cannot do is hit the students with an automatic ‘just because you are from this group, you are automatically sexist, racist or anti-immigrant,’" he said.

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Democrats have warned that the legislation will stifle educators and lead to frivolous lawsuits. State Senator Shevrin Jones expressed that he feels the bill will suppress teachers’ freedom to teach certain subject areas.

"All this legislation is going to do is to promote ignorance of race-related content and other content that children should know about and should have access to," Jones said.

Democrats have repeatedly argued that the controversy over critical race theory is a distraction from real issues facing the state and that the theory is not taught in Florida public schools. Yet, opposing critical race theory has become a political rallying cry for Republicans across the country.

Another issue under discussion this week in Tallahassee is the national anthem. Florida lawmakers are moving forward with a plan to tie state and local funding to playing the anthem. The Senate Commerce and Tourism Committee on Tuesday voted to back a proposal that would require Florida professional sports teams receiving government money to play the national anthem before every home game.

MORE: Florida lawmakers consider bill requiring professional sports teams to play national anthem at games

The measure would ban government agencies from entering into agreements with professional teams without written verification that the anthem would be played before games.

"I don’t know if there are any known instances in Florida," said state senator Joe Gruters, the Republican representing Sarasota who sponsored the measure. "This is just to make sure, as a proactive approach, that people continue to play it."

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The proposal mirrors a Texas law that went into effect in September. Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban in November 2020 instructed his team to stop playing the national anthem before home games, a move that came after a number of players breached NBA rules by kneeling during the anthem as a form of protest against police brutality in the U.S.