Featured Image

TALLAHASSEE, Florida, January 14, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Joining their counterparts in several other states who have done so over the past several months, Republicans in Florida introduced legislation last week to ban abortion upon detection of a fetal heartbeat.

HB 235 identifies the fetal heartbeat as a “key medical predictor that an unborn human being will reach live birth” that “begins at a biologically identifiable moment in time.” Accordingly, it requires abortionists to test for a fetal heartbeat and declares that committing an abortion despite finding one would be a third-degree felony. The bill also replaces the word “fetus” with “unborn human being.” The only exception permitted would be physical threats to the mother’s health.

Third-degree felonies are punishable in Florida by fines of up to $5,000 and prison sentences between two and five years.

Republican state Rep. Mike Hill was the one to file the legislation, the Florida Phoenix reports, and has already received pushback from abortion defenders and lobbyists in the state.

“This is just another attempt by a Florida politician – we’ve seen it before – at criminalizing doctors and interfering in women’s private medical decisions,” claimed Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates executive director Laura Goodhue. “It’s clearly unconstitutional if they were to pass this bill into law.”

Democrat state Rep. Ana Eskamani, a former senior director of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida, attacked the “extreme” bill and its backers for “sham[ing] women with legislation that does nothing to improve our health and wellbeing.” Hill responded by chiding her for attempting to debate the legislation on social media rather than on the House floor.

Preborn babies’ hearts finish forming around seven or eight weeks into pregnancy, so the bill would ban abortions much earlier than the current limits defined by Roe v. Wade. But pro-lifers in many states argue that, in light of President Donald Trump having nominated two justices to the Supreme Court so far, now is the time for state legislatures to enact legislation that would provoke a new U.S. Supreme Court case.

If such a case resulted in a vote to overturn Roe v. Wade, states and Congress would once again be free to vote directly on whether to allow any abortions, and lawsuits against a wide variety of abortion restrictions and regulations would lose much of their potency.

The Phoenix notes that the Florida Supreme Court has blocked numerous pro-life bills enacted in the state over the past several years, but pro-lifers’ odds may change now that three of the court’s liberal justices have retired and the state’s new Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis will be nominating replacements for them.

DeSantis has already indicated he would sign a heartbeat bill.

Last week, a similar heartbeat bill was introduced in the South Carolina legislature. A “personhood” bill to recognize the rights of all preborn humans has also been prefiled in South Carolina.