Chamber of the Florida House of Representatives. Credit: Imani Thomas
For about two hours in the state House on Tuesday, Democratic lawmakers questioned aspects of a bill that could ban many abortions in Florida and tried to amend the legislation.
The answer, repeatedly, was no.
The 15-week abortion ban, HB 5, is expected to be up for debate Wednesday, leading to a vote in the GOP-controlled chamber.
HB 5 had moved quickly through various House committees in several weeks and multiple people testified for and against the bill that is similar to the Mississippi ban under review at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Florida has a history of lawmakers pushing to restrict legal access to abortion services, threatening the protections under Roe v. Wade, the landmark U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortions in 1973.
Republican State Rep. Erin Grall, sponsor of the 15-week abortion ban, presented the bill Tuesday before the full House. She represents Indian River County and part of St. Lucie.
Democratic Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, who represent parts of Orange County, asked what would happen if two physicians disagree, referring to parts in HB 5 that say that a women has to receive approval from two doctors before getting an abortion in certain circumstances.
Grall didn’t respond, and House Speaker Chris Sprowls told Smith to save those types of questions for debate.
State Rep. Marie-Paule Woodson, a Democrat representing part of Broward County, questioned the concerns of women in Florida that may be seeking abortions.
“Aren’t you concerned about these women who maybe can’t get an abortion of 15 weeks?” Woodson said.
Grall responded, “I’m more worried about the children who would have to go through that terrible procedure more than anything.”
Democrats kept hitting Grall with hard questions due to the seriousness of the bill.
Rep. Dotie Joseph, who represents part of Miami-Dade County, asked if there are other states that have the two-physicians approval, and asked Grall if she could name them.
“I don’t have it in front of me at the moment but I will provide that to you,” Grall said.
After several questions from Joseph, Speaker Sprowls began to get frustrated, stating, “Please do not treat this House chamber as a courtroom” — comparing her questions to cross examining a witness.
Following questions, lawmakers pursued several amendments to the bill, but none were approved.
Rep. Woodson was emotional in presenting her amendment, which would allow women to have abortions after the 15 weeks in cases of rape or incest.
“Lets do the right thing,” Woodson said. She said she had a friend who was raped and never forgot that. “Let’s do the right thing here people,” Woodson said.
The amendment failed.
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