One of Florida's most common abortion procedures, often performed during the second trimester, would be banned under a bill two Treasure Coast lawmakers filed Tuesday, the first day of the legislative session.
The bills (House Bill 1429 and Senate Bill 1890) would prohibit doctors from using tools such as forceps and clamps during dilation and evacuation procedures, commonly called D&Es, except when a patient's life is in danger. The bills refer to the process as "dismemberment abortions."
D&Es typically are done to abort fetuses with abnormalities or severe medical issues, and to expedite or complete miscarriages.
Physicians, not patients, could be charged with a third-degree felony, or a second-degree felony if the patient dies during the procedure.
Doctors still would be allowed to use suction devices, often used during the first trimester, even though they also can dismember the fetus.
The difference is suction devices are not used "with the specific intent to dismember," said House bill sponsor Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach.
"As a civilized society, we must rally against this barbaric procedure," Grall said of D&Es, and "respect the dignity of every life."
The courts consistently have limited the state’s ability to regulate first-trimester abortions, Grall also noted.
The "disappointing" bill interferes with the doctor-patient relationship, said Laura Goodhue, executive director of Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates.
"This bill undermines doctors' abilities to provide the best medical care for their patients," Goodhue said.
State Sen. Debbie Mayfield, R-Melbourne, did not respond to TCPalm's interview request about her companion bill.
Eight states have implemented similar bans in the past three years, according to the National Right to Life Committee, among the most prominent U.S. anti-abortion groups.
Several state legislatures have been sued for those bills. And a federal district judge struck down part of Texas' ban in November, saying it imposes an "undue burden" on women seeking second-trimester abortions.
Grall, an attorney, said she's not concerned about legal challenges.
"I have no reason to believe the pro-abortion advocates will not challenge my bill," Grall said. "However, the threat of a legal challenge does not impact the duty we have to speak for the unborn."
The Florida Attorney General's Office has supported such bans, filing court papers to weigh in on Louisiana's ban.
Florida politicians in Congress also want to ban the practice nationwide, with bill co-sponsors including state Reps. Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville; Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden; and Francis Rooney, R-Naples.
The Florida bill's filing comes the same day a Leon County circuit judge struck down the state's 24-hour abortion law, passed in 2015. That law required women to consult with a doctor a day before having an abortion.