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  • Mike Winikoff, Hometown News

Vero Beach senator leads fight to ban abortion

STATEWIDE - The Florida state senator from Vero Beach, Erin Grall, has proposed a bill that would ban most abortions in the state. Senate Bill 300 and its companion House Bill 7, which are moving rapidly towards passage, bans almost all abortions in Florida after six weeks of pregnancy.

“Abortion has touched every single one of us, and we should grieve for what we have done as a country,” Sen. Grall said. “We should make certain that our laws reflect the strongest protections for innocent life.”

Current Florida law bans abortion after 15 weeks and 6 days, and requires a person to have two appointments at least 24 hours apart to obtain an abortion. The first visit includes lab work, ultrasound, education and options information, and a meeting with a physician to discuss the abortion procedure.  The second visit includes the abortion.

Planned Parenthood is suing in state court to overturn this law, but it is currently in effect.

Sen. Grall is a Republican who represents District 29, which consists of Glades, Highlands, Indian River, and Okeechobee counties and part of St. Lucie County. She was elected to the senate in 2022, after serving in the House of Representatives from 2016-2022.

Sen. Grall has named her bill the "Heartbeat Protection Act," a title the League of Women Voters objects to.

“Call this what it is: an abortion ban,” said League of Women Voters Florida President Cecile Scoon. “Do not call this a ‘heartbeat ban.’ It is a near-total abortion ban. ‘Heartbeat’ is a made-up term for ‘fetal cardiac activity’ and is used to mislead people about abortion and pregnancy. The League of Women Voters believes every person deserves the access and the privacy to make their own reproductive choices.”

The LWVFL also opposes Florida’s existing abortion restrictions that went into effect in 2022, even before this new bill.

“For months, Florida’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks has put lives and health at risk,” Ms. Scoon said. “Instead of addressing that harm, lawmakers are doubling down on their anti-abortion agenda. Everyone should be able to make decisions about their bodies, lives, and futures without interference from politicians. All abortion bans are extreme, no matter when in pregnancy they start, because they put politicians where they don’t belong: in charge of other people’s personal health care decisions. If passed, this will devastate abortion access in the southeast even more than it already has been.”

Polling shows that Floridians appear to support access to abortion. The most recent polling indicates that 64% of Floridians say that abortion should be legal in most or all circumstances.

According to a March 27 Senate staff analysis, SB 300 prohibits abortion after six weeks of gestation unless an exception is met. Current-law exceptions are maintained, and a new exception is established for cases in which the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest. This new exception is available until the 15th week of gestation under the bill.

The bill specifies that abortions may not be provided through telehealth, and that medication intended for use in a medical abortion may only be dispensed by a physician and may not be dispensed via the U.S. Postal Service or by any other carrier. The bill also prohibits any person, educational institution, and governmental entity from expending state funds for a person to travel to another state to receive services that are intended to support an abortion, unless such expenditure is required by federal law or there is a legitimate medical emergency.

Federal abortion law is in flux after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June, 2022 on Jackson Women's Health Org. v. Dobbs, a case involving Mississippi’s abortion law. The court held that “the Constitution does not confer a right to abortion; Roe and Casey are overruled; and the authority to regulate abortion is returned to the people and their elected representatives.”

Current Florida law says the termination of a pregnancy may not be performed after 15 weeks gestation unless there is a medical necessity or the fetus has a fatal abnormality. An abortion may not be performed after 15 weeks unless two physicians certify in writing that the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to save the woman’s life or avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the woman, other than a psychological condition. Additionally, an abortion may not be performed on a minor under the age of 18 without the consent of the minor’s parent or guardian or without the minor obtaining authorization for the abortion from a court.

If SB 300 becomes law, it will take effect 30 days after one of the following occurs:

  • A decision by the Florida Supreme Court holding that the right to privacy enshrined in s. 23, Article I of the state constitution does not include a right to abortion;

  • A decision by the Florida Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. State that allows the prohibition on abortions after 15 weeks to remain in effect, including a decision approving the First District Court of Appeal’s decision under review;

  • An amendment to the state constitution clarifying that s. 23, Article I of the state constitution does not include a right to abortion; or

  • A decision from the Florida Supreme Court that retreats from its 1989 decision in a case known as “In re T.W.” that concerned parental notifications when a pregnant minor seeks an abortion.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida and Ruth’s List Florida oppose the bill, with the latter’s CEO Christina Diamond calling it “the most offensive, harmful attack on our reproductive freedom we’ve seen from the GOP yet.”

To express your views, reach Sen. Erin Grall through her district office, located at 3209 Virginia Ave., Suite A149, Fort Pierce, FL 34981. The phone number is (772) 595-1398.


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