WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — U.S. Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., held a news conference Thursday morning to defend access to reproductive care in Florida, where legislation seeks to ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy.
Frankel spoke at the Kravis Center for the Performing Arts in downtown West Palm Beach, where a Planned Parenthood fundraiser was taking place.
"Women, not politicians, should have the freedom to decide whether, when, and with whom to start or grow a family," Frankel said. "And having legal access to contraception and abortion is part of that freedom."
SB 300, filed by state Sen. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, would make performing an abortion after six weeks a third-degree felony. A companion bill, HB 7, was introduced by state Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, R-Fort Myers, in the Florida House.
HB 7 on Thursday passed its first committee in the Florida Legislature in a 13 to 5 vote. Republicans pushed it through despite opposition from Democrats and dozens of public speakers.
Both the House and Senate versions include exceptions if a woman is raped or is the victim of incest.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he would support the legislation.
Frankel said a six-week ban is essentially banning abortion altogether, as many women don't know they're pregnant until after six weeks.
"If it goes into effect, which we expect it will, it's going to be a horror show — a horror show for the women here, for the women of the south and their doctors," Frankel said.
Frankel added that, if passed, the updated law will especially hurt women who are under-resourced.
Current Florida law outlaws abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape or incest.
Frankel was joined by former U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., and Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates.
Supporters of Planned Parenthood said they worry about women endangering their lives by seeking unsafe abortions if the six-week ban becomes law.
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Abortion opponents have been waiting for Florida to join other red states in passing stricter abortion laws after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year.
"My whole thing is, as the present of the Palm Beach County Right to Life League, is to save babies, period," Willy Guardiola, who has been part of the anti-abortion movement for years, said.
Planned Parenthood officials said they expect legal challenges if either bill becomes law.
"It's going to impact all of our reproductive health and lives," Goodhue said.