State Sen. Kelli Stargel, Senate sponsor of the 15-week abortion ban. March 3, 2022. Credit: Screenshot, Florida Channel.
Late in the evening Thursday, amid tears, personal stories, and fears about women’s freedom, the Florida Senate approved a 15-week abortion ban for Florida, allowing the legislation to go to Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk for his consideration.
The bill passed on a party-line vote of 23 to 15, with Republican Sen. Ileana Garcia, of Miami-Dade, not voting. Garcia had said in debate that, “I don’t believe in the death penalty and I don’t believe in abortions.”
The Senate vote was a foregone conclusion: Before the debate on HB 5, President Wilton Simpson said, “I think the Senate is going to pass the bill and I think the Supreme Court will pass it—these mothers will still have options as long as it’s before 15 weeks.”
The state House had already approved the bill.
On Thursday in the Senate, multiple Democrats offered arguments, but to no avail — that abortion represents needed health care for many women; that the state provides insufficient support for mothers and children; that the bill lacks protections for survivors of rape and incest.
The only exemption in the bill is for fatal fetal deformities.
Democratic Sen. Janet Cruz, of Hillsborough County, gave a perspective on being a teen mom and making a decision on keeping her child.
“I was sixteen and pregnant and ignored it far after 15 weeks but I decided what do with my family — it wasn’t the government decision. Taking this away from women takes away from their freedom and puts them in danger,” Cruz said.
State Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Democrat from Miami-Dade, said: “We’re supposed to be making laws for everyone — not for people who can afford it. We are supposed to focus on real issues in Florida and this ain’t one of them.”
Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book said, “If we are so free, why are we taking away woman’s freedom — her family, her future. Yesterday it became clear there will be no exception for women who are raped. This an assault on women’s rights. This is not okay.”
Sen. Randolph Bracy, a Democrat from Orange County, was concerned about rape and incest issues. “The fact we didn’t make any exception for rape and incest scares me,” Bracy said. “I have two young girls and if this happened to them I would be scared — this is cruel and I can’t support this.”
Republican Sen. Danny Burgess, of Central Florida, stood up to say that, “As a man I have been told to stay out of this is, but this is an important bill —I believe that life begins at conception. This bill is about my faith, that we are killing babies.”
State Sen. Kelli Stargel, the Senate sponsor of the bill, said she never believed that she would be standing in the Senate chamber and saving babies’ lives.
The bill (HB 5) violates decades of U.S. Supreme Court precedent but Republicans expect the justices to toss aside that jurisprudence in a pending case testing similar legislation already approved in Mississippi, which is still under review.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s new conservative supermajority appears to have the votes, if it wants, to overrule Roe v. Wade, which established a fundamental privacy right to abortion services through fetal viability, and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, which bars states from erecting undue burdens to the procedure.
The Florida Supreme Court has recognized a right to abortion under the Florida Constitution, but it’s unclear whether the new conservative majority there would respect that precedent; the new justices have proven quite willing to reverse even relatively recent precedents.
The Florida Supreme Court ruled in 1989 that the right to privacy under the Florida Constitution was broad enough to invalidate a law requiring parental consent for minors to undergo abortions.
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