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DeSantis vows to sign Florida’s 15-week abortion ban ‘in short order’

David McLoone

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'These are protections for babies that have heartbeats, that can feel pain,' Gov. Ron DeSantis affirmed.

Florida’s State Senate passed legislation Thursday banning abortion within the state after 15 weeks of pregnancy, sending the bill to pro-life state Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) who has vowed to sign the bill “in short order.”

The Republican-led Senate voted 23–15 in favor of the bill, H.B. 5, on Thursday evening, which will make abortions illegal in Florida after a child is determined to have been conceived at least 15 weeks prior. The legislation anticipates a possible Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade later this year.

The bill includes exceptions in two cases: first, when “the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life or avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman other than a psychological condition;” and second, when a baby is considered to have suffered a “fatal fetal abnormality,” which the bill describes as “a terminal condition that, in reasonable medical judgment, regardless of the provision of life-saving medical treatment, is incompatible with life outside the womb and will result in death upon birth or imminently thereafter.”

On Wednesday, Republicans voted down an amendment to the bill which would extend the exceptional cases to include incest, rape, and human trafficking.

Bill sponsor Sen. Kelli Stargel defended the decision not to include rape and incest as exceptions to the rule, stating that a child should not “be killed because of the circumstances in which it was conceived.”

The bill mirrors that of Arizona’s Senate Bill 1164 and West Virginia’s House Bill 4004, all three of which are modeled on the Mississippi Gestational Age Act banning abortions after 15 weeks. Arizona’s Senate and West Virginia’s House passed the legislation last month.

The Supreme Court is currently deliberating on the Mississippi law and is expected to decide whether all so-called “pre-viability” abortion limits are unconstitutional this summer.

Florida’s bill, which was passed by the House last month, now makes its way to the governor’s desk where, if signed, it will become effective on July 1Following the vote, Florida’s Catholic governor said that the protections offered for the unborn by the bill “are warranted, and I think that we’ll be able to sign that in short order.”

“These are protections for babies that have heartbeats, that can feel pain, and this is very, very late,” he added.

Prior to the bill passing the Senate, DeSantis had indicated his support, saying it “makes a lot of sense” and adding that more pro-life legislation will be making its way through the legislature, which “we’re going to be welcoming.”

The Catholic bishops of Florida added their voices in support of the bill’s passing, describing the legislation as “an incremental, yet important, step” towards the protection of innocent lives.

Approximately four percent of abortions in Florida — more than 3,300 — occurred at 15 weeks of pregnancy or later in 2020, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, the SBA List’s research arm. As of 2020, Florida has one of the highest abortion rates in the U.S. at 19.2 per 1,000 women, and 65 abortion sites — triple that of any other southern state.

The 15-week ban would significantly curb late-term abortion in the Southeast, where many women seeking late abortions travel due to relaxed restrictions, according to Reuters.

By 15 weeks of pregnancy, babies are able to feel pain throughout much of their body, including in their trunks and limbs, the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists (AAPLOG) has noted. Unborn babies can perceive pain around the peri-oral area as early as seven weeks, and in the palms and soles by 11 weeks.

“Early in the second trimester, the fetus reacts to stimuli that would be recognized as painful if applied to an adult human, in much the same ways as an adult, for example, by recoiling,” according to the AAPLOG.