Tensions boil over in the FL Senate as GOP senators push through restrictive 6-week abortion ban

By: - April 3, 2023 5:05 pm

State Sen. Erin Grall, sponsor of the 6-week abortion ban. Credit: Screenshot, Florida Channel.

The GOP-controlled Florida Senate approved an extremely restrictive abortion ban that prohibits most abortions past six weeks, after several disruptions and outbursts from members of the public who opposed the legislation.

“People will die!” someone shouted towards the lawmakers.

The Florida Senate debates legislation banning abortions after six weeks’ gestation on March 30, 2023. Credit: Michael Moline

Those individuals usually left the Senate chamber after outbursts on their own accord, but after several more disruptions, Senate President Kathleen Passidomo ordered the Senate gallery to be cleared after the contentious legislation was approved.

There was even disagreement from some GOP lawmakers. The bill, SB 300, was approved primarily on party lines, however, two Republicans voted against the measure.

State Sen. Corey Simon, who represents multiple counties in North Florida, voted against SB 300, though he did not explain why he voted against the bill during debate.

The other Republican ‘no’ vote came from Rep. Alexis Calatayud, who represents part of Miami-Dade County. She previously voted down on the restrictive six-week abortion ban legislation in committee stops, saying that she promised her district that she would advocate for the current 15-week ban in Florida law.

SB 300 is sponsored by Sen. Erin Grall, who represents several counties in South Central Florida and has carried several abortion restrictions over the past couple years. The House has its own version of the six-week abortion ban, HB 7. The full House would have to agree on the ban to pursue the final legislation that would go to Gov. Ron Desantis.

The bill specifies that a “woman” would be prohibited from receiving an abortion after six-weeks of gestation, though transgender men and some non-binary people can also get pregnant and would be affected by the bill.

The legislation has exceptions for victims of rape, incest and human trafficking. Those victims would be subjected to the 15-week timeframe that Florida law currently imposes to terminate the pregnancy.

Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, a Republican representing part of Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, said: “Instead of providing women with the support they need to keep their children, abortion has become the default solution to an unintended pregnancy. We need to foster a culture –” she was interrupted by an outburst from a member of the public.

When the person left the chamber, Rodrigues continued: “we need to foster a culture where every life is cherished and where women are empowered to make the right choices.”

During debate on the measure, Democrat Sen. Tina Polsky of South Florida argued that the 6-week restriction on abortions means that people will have to make “snap decisions” as to whether they want to terminate a pregnancy.

Sen. Book: “Call my office”

Sen. Lauren Book, a Democrat who represents part of Broward County, noted that consent is needed to become an organ donor or to donate bone marrow, but the 6-week abortion ban grants greater protections to a fetus than a “living, breathing women and girls.”

Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book, a South Florida Democrat. Florida Channel screenshot

“You’re choosing to discriminate against women on the basis of sex, because only women are being forced to give their body to someone, or something else, without our consent,” Book said.

Book then directed her comments towards “to the women and girls of this country and this state.”

“Please, don’t take matters into your own hands. Do not put your safety at risk. No back-alley abortions, there are people and funds who will help you,” she said.

“Call my office…I will help you, we will help you,” she urged.

But Rep. Grall argued that “just because women have the means to end a life does not mean that we should.”

“Women are extraordinary. What we are capable of bringing into this world is incredible. It is something that should be celebrated. It is something that we should be encouraging women in this time to own the difference that they are able to make through the children that they bring into the world,” she said.

The bill passed the Senate 26 to 13, with one senator absent for the vote. Shortly after the vote, a loud and passionate 30-person protest gathered on the 4th Floor Rotunda in the Capitol building.

Additional provisions

The six-week abortion ban has other restrictions. People would have to obtain an abortion in the presence of a physician, even for medically-induced abortions, creating additional hurdles for people seeking an abortion within the proposed six-week time frame.

Telehealth services to obtain an abortion, even medically-induced abortions, are prohibited. Patients could not receive medically-induced abortions through the mail either.

The bill prohibits any state funds from going towards transportation of pregnant people seeking an abortion to a state that would provide one, unless there is a life-threatening medical emergency.

The bill sets aside $25 million in state funds to go towards “pregnancy and parenting support services” which are intended to provide counseling and mentoring to new parents, as well as provide “nonmedical material assistance” such as clothing, car seats, cribs, formula, and diapers.

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Danielle J. Brown
Danielle J. Brown

Danielle J. Brown is a 2018 graduate of Florida State University. She has served as an editorial intern for International Program’s annual magazine and Rowland Publishing. She was born and raised in Tallahassee and reviews community theater productions for the Tallahassee Democrat.