TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Abortion advocates were dismayed Thursday after the passage of Florida's six-week ban from its first legislative committee. The Republican majority pushed it closer to Gov. Ron DeSantis with a 13-5 vote along party lines.
If signed, and upheld by state courts, HB7 cuts abortion access in Florida from 15 to six weeks gestational age, making exceptions for rape, incest and fatal fetal conditions. That is near the point physicians can detect "cardiac activity," but before many know they're pregnant.
"My personal belief is that life begins at conception," said Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, R-Fort Myers, who is carrying the House version of the bill.
She said Wednesday her goal was to prevent as many abortions as possible.
"There is no greater purpose that drives me than giving every child an opportunity to be born and an opportunity to live," she said.
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The idea faced mostly stiff opposition from the public. More than 100 signed up to speak out before the vote — doctors, mothers and teenagers are among them. Some said they were frightened cutting access would prompt a return to unsafe abortion practices — and that lawmakers weren't listening.
"People were talking about being raped, people were talking about their sexual assault, people were talking about their trauma, what they've been dealing with for their whole life, and they can sit up there and act like it never even happened," said Neela Ravindran, a Sarasota high school student. "I don't understand how they can act like it never even happened. People are crying in this lobby."
Other abortion advocates vowed retribution at the 2024 ballot box, hoping election pressure would be their best bet as, even united, Democrats lack the votes needed to stop the bill at the Capitol. But Republicans don't seem too phased — even with polling showing abortion bans are unpopular and unsuccessful in red state referendums.
DeSantis sounds supportive, saying last week he welcomes "pro-life legislation" and the GOP leaders remain on board.
The House bill will now advance to its final committee, which is expected to meet in the coming days. The Senate's version will get its first of two hearings on Monday afternoon.