At least a 100 anti-abortion protesters gathered in the Florida Capitol building on Nov. 22, 2022. Andrew Shirvell, in khaki pants and a white shirt, is the head of Florida Voice for the Unborn. Credit: Danielle J. Brown
On the first day of the 2022 Legislature, Jan 11, 2022, then-Rep. Erin Grall, who has been at the forefront of abortion restrictions in Florida, suddenly filed a bill that would become Florida’s 15-week abortion ban. The Senate’s version was filed on that day as well.
This year, it appears that the first day of the Legislature, March 7, may not reveal what the GOP lawmakers have planned regarding abortion bans.
Based on a recent meeting in the state House, it’s safe to say the puzzle pieces are all over the place. So, what can Floridians expect next week and in the coming months? It’s not yet clear.
Andrew Shirvell, founder and executive director of the anti-abortion activist group Florida Voice for the Unborn, expects that the abortion legislation could come later in the session. This comes from a February meeting with House Speaker Paul Renner and other staff, according to a Thursday email Shirvell sent to members of his organization.
According to the email, Florida Voice for the Unborn along with other anti-abortion groups “were present in-person for the meeting with Speaker Renner, which took place in his office’s large conference room” on Feb. 20.
Shirvell describes in the Thursday email:
“According to the Speaker, legislation further prohibiting abortion in Florida would likely not be introduced in the usual manner. [In the regular process, bills in both the House and Senate would need to be filed by noon on the first day of the Session (March 7th)]. Rather, Speaker Renner said that the anticipated legislation would be introduced as a proposed committee bill sometime during the 60-day Session. He remained very vague as to specifics, although he stated (repeatedly) that the bill that is likely to be introduced ‘may not be the one you want.’”
According to the Thursday email, Florida Voice for the Unborn says that they want lawmakers to pass “a law protecting all unborn children, from the moment of conception.”
However, others think a bill furthering abortion restriction could come as early as next week.
Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando said she expects a 6-week abortion ban. It could be filed Friday or early next week, she said. That could mean that in three to four days, “we’ll have an abortion ban filed in Florida,” Eskamani said.
“A 6-week abortion ban would pretty much be an all-out ban because most folks don’t even realize they’re pregnant at 6 weeks,” Eskamani said.
“At the end of the day, people with money are going to find a way to end their pregnancies,” she emphasized. “But it’s gonna be folks that don’t have money, communities of color, people with disabilities, folks who are undocumented – it’s gonna be vulnerable and marginalized communities who already face systematic barriers to care – who are going to be most likely impacted and potentially have to experience forced pregnancies.”
Aside from when a bill would officially drop, there are questions as to what the bill would look like.
The Phoenix previously reported attorney John Stemberger, president of the Florida Family Policy Council, that he predicts a so-called “heartbeat bill,” meaning banning abortions after 6-weeks, as the most likely legislation pushed by the GOP. Florida Family Policy Council is a statewide anti-abortion advocacy group based in Orlando.
“We also expect that eventually, the Florida Supreme Court will strike down bad decisions on privacy which many years ago suddenly found a right to abortion in our state constitution,” Stemberger added in a Friday email. “This will uphold the 15-week bill and also a future heartbeat bill.”
The Florida Democrats in the House and Senate are sure of one aspect:
“It will further erode our rights to have an abortion, our reproductive rights,” Sen. Lori Berman, who represents part of Palm Beach County, told the Phoenix. “I know that if there is further legislation it will be in the opposite direction of where I would like to see us going.”
Berman filed a bill to protect abortion access for Floridians, SB 1076, with the goal of codifying the former Roe v. Wade protections ruling into law. The bill would also delete language prohibiting abortion after 15 weeks, as current law states.
But with a Republican supermajority in the House and Senate, Berman’s bill is unlikely to make it through the legislative session.
Berman said she’s not sure what a future abortion-restriction bill would look like, but she expects there to be one.
“It’s hard to say. You know, I’m in the minority party,” Berman said, meaning the Democrats. “We are hearing rumblings about six weeks. We’re hearing rumblings about 12 weeks. So, not really sure where it’s going to end up.”
This year will be the first regular session after the overturning of Roe v. Wade, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in late June of 2022.
The abortion ban, known as HB 5, was signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis last April. Then-state Rep. Grall attended the event. She is now a state senator.
The 15-week ban has led to lawsuits, and the case is now at the Florida Supreme Court. There, lawyers for a group of abortion clinics are pleading with the high court not to overrule decades of precedent protecting access to the procedure under the Florida Constitution, citing the plain text of that document’s Privacy Clause and the danger to millions of Florida women.
DeSantis has been cautious about what he’s been saying about restrictions on abortion, particularly now that he is considered a presidential candidate.
DeSantis has yet to announce his aspirations for the 2024 presidency.
The Florida Legislature’s session goes from March 7 to May 5.
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