Once again, a person’s right to choose to terminate a pregnancy with a safe abortion is being threatened. This time, it’s happening in the state of Florida.
On September 22, just weeks after the Texas abortion law went into effect, Webster Barnaby, a Republican Florida state representative, filed the Florida Heartbeat Act. The bill, if turned into law, would ban abortions after a heartbeat is detected, which is usually between six and eight weeks, before many people know they are pregnant.
Much like the Texas abortion law, the Florida Heartbeat Act would allow (and, frankly, encourage) citizens to sue physicians and their staff for $10,000 for performing and/or aiding in an abortion after a heartbeat is detected. This aspect of the bill closely mimics Texas’ law, basically skirting around a person’s right to a safe abortion without the interference of the government since, technically, it won’t be the government holding people responsible, but everyday Floridians.
It’s such a slimy move that even anti-choice Republican, State Senator Kathleen Passidomo, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that she has reservations on the bill.
“I am pro-life, but I am not pro telling on your neighbors.”
She further explained that she’s “uncomfortable with the language” of the bill and that she finds the “neighbor versus neighbor” aspect of it “very troubling.”
Nikki Fried, a Democratic candidate for governor in Florida, also commented on this aspect of the bill, saying, “it turns Floridians against one another by asking citizens to enforce this extreme law.”
Additionally, Rep. Barnaby purposefully replaced the word “fetus” with “unborn child” throughout the bill’s text, a move that will further divide the pro-choice and anti-choice lawmakers as well as the public.
Finally, while this in no way makes the Florida Heartbeat Act any less unconstitutional (or repulsive), it is important to note that this bill does differ from the Texas law in that there are exceptions for rape, incest, and medical emergencies.
Since this bill was just submitted, it isn’t set to be reviewed by the legislature until next year. But if it passes through and is turned into law, it would go into effect in July of 2022.
This law should shock everyone, whether they live in Florida or not because it’s proof that our constitutional right to choice is under attack. In fact, Roe v. Wade is about to be seriously challenged, because on December 1, 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) will begin hearing arguments in the Mississippi case Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. The case is based on the state’s abortion ban after 15 weeks and asks “whether all state laws that ban pre-viability abortions are unconstitutional.”
This case was already shot down by a panel of conservative justices in one of the US Courts of Appeals for conflicting with precedents set by Roe v. Wade. The fact that SCOTUS has agreed to take the case means the justices are willing to reconsider and potentially overrule Roe v. Wade, which declared that a person’s right to an abortion before fetal viability (between 22 and 24 weeks) is protected under the constitution.
Outrageous state laws that seek to ban safe, legal abortions are not new, but the language used in the Texas law and Florida bill is. As is SOCTUS’ willingness to revisit the nearly 50-year precedent set by Roe v. Wade.
Our reproductive rights are not guaranteed, and we cannot keep ignoring the very real threat they are under right now.