Heartbeat bill proposed

Ashley Hunter, ECB Publishing, Inc.

The Florida Legislature is no stranger to making attempts that would ban the abortion of a pregnancy after it exceeds certain lengths of time. In 2017, legislation was created that would ban abortions in the State of Florida if they took place after 20 weeks. Ultimately, the legislation died symbolically in early committee meetings, but a new legislation movement has been filed by conservative state lawmakers that again take aim at the abortion laws within the state.

The newest legislation to be filed for the 2019 law making session would make it a third-degree felony should a doctor perform an abortion on an unborn fetus if a fetal heartbeat can be detected. The language in the legislation also redefines the usage of “unborn fetus” to that of an “unborn human being.” The bill's sponsor is Representative Mike Hill, who has represented Florida's 1st District, which includes Escambia County, from 2014-2016 and then was reelected to office in 2018.

Rep. Hill claims that the decision to file the bill for the 2019 session was made due to his commitment to his constitutional oath.

“My oath said that I would protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Life being the first one,” said Rep. Hill. “Consider the rights of that unborn baby.”

Those who represent Planned Parenthood have issued opposition to the bill. Kimberly Scott, the director of public policy at the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, has called the bill “the most dangerous bill” for reproductive health in the Florida legislature and “blatantly unconstitutional.”

Should the bill become law, Planned Parenthood has declared that legal challenges will be issued. Currently under Florida law, an abortion is allowed as long as the unborn fetus/baby is under 24 weeks old. Planned Parenthood claims that it takes six weeks for a fetal heartbeat to be detected, though conservative opponents claim that it takes as little as 18 days for a heartbeat to be audible.

The attempts of Florida lawmakers to pass this sort of legislature will not be an act of pioneer legislation. Similar laws have been vetoed or blocked in four other states. The Florida Legislation Session will begin on Tuesday, March 5.