Florida lawmaker proposes Texas-style bill banning abortion as early as six weeks

·3-min read
Florida lawmaker proposes Texas-style bill banning abortion as early as six weeks

A lawmaker in Florida has filed a proposed bill empowering private citizens to sue doctors who perform an abortion after a heartbeat is detected, which can be as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.

Republican state representative Webster Barnaby filed House Bill 167 on Wednesday containing similar provisions to a recent bill passed in Texas, with both exposing anyone who performs or helps an abortion in violation of the law to legal damages of least $10,000.

A similar “Heartbeat” bill came into effect in Texas on 1 September after a failed bid to challenge its constitutionality in the Supreme Court. The legal challenge failed on procedural grounds.

Both the Florida and Texas laws are designed to remove state officials from the enforcement process, and instead leave it to private citizens to file lawsuits against anyone in violation of the statutes.

Under the proposed Florida law, citizens could sue anyone who knowingly performs or “aids or abets” an abortion for up to six years after the violation of the law occurred.

There is an exemption for medical emergencies that put the mother’s life in danger.

The law would also change some of the legal definitions when discussing abortions, changing “fetus” to “unborn child”.

The Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision not to block the Texas ban on abortion once a heartbeat is detected led to immediate indications of similar proposals in Republican-controlled state legislatures.

A day after the Texas law went into effect, Florida’s pro-life governor Ron DeSantis said “what they did in Texas was interesting”.

“I haven’t really been able to look enough into it,” Mr DeSantis said when asked at a news conference. “I am going to look more significantly at it.”

A spokeswoman for the Florida governor has previously indicated that he was looking into the best legislative options to protect life in the State.

“With that said, the governor has not indicated that the same legislation recently enacted in Texas will be on the table in Florida. At the same time, nothing is off the table,” said Christina Pushaw in a statement given to The Hill before this latest bill was proposed.

Florida’s Senate president Wilton Simpson was more explicit, telling WLFA that they would likely pass similar anti-abortion laws during the next legislative session.

"When the Supreme Court goes out and makes a decision like this, it clearly is going to send a signal to all the states that are interested in banning abortions or making it more restrictive to have an abortion in their state, it’s certainly going to make us take a look at those issues," he said.

The legality of the “Heartbeat” laws are heading towards a challenge in the Supreme Court after a Texas doctor publicly admitted to violating the statute.

San Antonio physician Alan Braid was sued by an Arkansas man in a civil lawsuit filed on Monday following an opinion column in The Washington Post over the weekend.

“I fully understood that there could be legal consequences — but I wanted to make sure that Texas didn’t get away with its bid to prevent this blatantly unconstitutional law from being tested,” Mr Braid wrote.

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