‘Florida Heartbeat Act’ filed: Here’s what the anti-abortion bill means

Bill alters definition of ‘abortion’ in the state

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – An anti-abortion bill titled the “Florida Heartbeat Act” was filed Wednesday by state Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-Deltona).

The bill requires a physician to conduct a test for, and inform a woman seeking abortion of, the presence of detectable fetal heartbeat. It also prohibits physicians from performing or inducing abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected, or, if a physician fails to conduct a test to detect fetal heartbeat.

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The measure would make an exception if physicians believe that abortions are necessary because of medical emergencies that threaten women’s lives. It would not include exceptions for pregnancies that occur because of rape or incest, according to the News Service of Florida.

The bill also authorizes private civil cause of action for certain violations, and provides for civil remedies and damages.

The act states, “... a fetal heartbeat is a key medical predictor that an unborn child will reach live birth, and cardiac activity begins at a biologically identifiable moment in time, normally when the fetal heart is formed in the gestational sac ... the state of Florida has a compelling interest from the outset of a woman’s pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the unborn child, and in order to make an informed choice about whether to continue her pregnancy, the pregnant woman has a compelling interest in knowing the likelihood of her unborn child surviving to full-term birth based upon the presence of cardiac activity.”

The bill also altered the definition of “abortion” in the state.

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According to the act, “abortion” means the termination of human pregnancy with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead unborn child.

Previously, the definition concluded with “to remove a dead fetus” rather than “to remove a dead unborn child.” This is a deliberate change noted throughout the act. “Unborn child” has replaced the term “dead fetus.”

Volusia County State Representative Webster Barnaby filed the bill Wednesday but would not answer reporter questions about it, “No comments at this time,” he said as the elevator door closed

However, Florida Democrats are talking from Tallahassee, including Orlando State Representative Anna V. Eskamani.

“It’s very similar to SB 8 in Texas, that’s the inspiration of this bill,” Eskamani said. “This is one of the most extreme abortion bans we’ve ever seen. It bans abortions at a point where most folks don’t even know they are pregnant yet. The exceptions are very narrow and of course it turns neighbors against each other and paying this bounty-like structure. It’s disappointing.”

“Chances are that it is probably going to be law,” said State Representative Evan Jenne. “We need to do everything we can to either water it down or make it, so it is constitutionally unviable. We have every intention of putting up a severe, very strong fight whenever this bill comes to the floor.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis was questioned about the bill during a news conference in Kissimmee Wednesday — where he was arguing that a new rule giving parents the power to decide whether to quarantine their children when they have been exposed to someone who is COVID positive protects against government overreach.

“I mean, I think the differences between (this COVID rule and) right to life Is that another life is at stake. Whereas, whether you’re doing stuff is really... if you put something in your body or not and does it affect other people. So that’s the... in terms of protecting another life but, look, at the end of the day, you know, government was instituted for certain reasons — protect life liberty pursuit of happiness,” DeSantis said.

He later added, “I have not seen what was there (in the bill). I have a 100% pro-life record, and very much have supported when I was in Congress and then signed pro-life legislation.”

This bill was filed weeks after a similar law in Texas took effect.

Leaders from Planned Parenthood also released statements about the proposed anti-abortion legislation.

“The newly filed Texas-style abortion ban makes abortion everyone’s business but your own. This unconstitutional bill would ban abortion at six weeks — before most people even know they’re pregnant — and it means that many Florida patients simply wouldn’t be able to get an abortion. No one’s most personal medical decisions should be controlled by politicians or anyone else,” Laura Goodhue, Executive Director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates said.

“HB 167 is part of an aggressive, nationwide movement with one goal in mind — banning abortion. A Texas-style abortion ban in Florida would be devastating, not just for Florida but for the entire southeastern United States that relies on safe and judgment-free abortion access here in Florida. A majority of Floridians support Roe v. Wade and we will not tolerate this unconstitutional attack on our freedoms by politicians,” Stephanie Fraim, President/CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida said.

If voted into law, the bill goes into effect on July 1, 2022.