Legislation introduced in 2017 aimed at banning abortions after 20 weeks in Florida, but it failed in early committee meetings.
HB-235, filed last week for the 2019 session, wants to take it a step further. It would make it a third-degree felony for a doctor to perform an abortion if a fetal heartbeat could be detected.
“Consider the rights of that unborn baby,” said Republican Rep. Mike Hill, who sponsored the bill.
He says the decision to file the bill came down to his constitutional oath.
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“My oath said that I would protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Life being the first one,” Hill said.
The legislation would also redefine an “unborn fetus” as an “unborn human being.”
Kimberly Scott with Planned Parenthood calls the heartbeat bill, “the most dangerous bill that we have seen for reproductive health in the Florida legislature.”
Rep. Hill says a fetal heartbeat can usually be detected after 18 days. Planned Parenthood says six weeks.
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Either way, it would be a major decrease from the 24 weeks currently allowed under Florida law.
Planned Parenthood says legal challenges would undoubtedly ensue if the bill became law.
“They spend millions of taxpayer dollars in order to defend this type of legislation in the courts,” Scott said. “This legislation is not in effect anywhere because it is so blatantly unconstitutional.”
But Hill says the shifting makeup of the courts might help his bill hold up.
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“We think we can start overturning a lot of these abortion rulings that are killing the unborn,” he said.
Similar laws passed in three states were blocked by the courts. A nearly identical bill was vetoed in Ohio.