Florida lawmakers are considering new abortion restrictions that would prohibit procedures when doctors determine the fetus could survive outside the womb.
Current Florida abortion law bars most third-trimester procedures. The new law would require a doctor to examine a woman before performing the abortion to determine if the fetus is viable. If so, the woman would not be allowed to go ahead with the procedure legally.
Supporters of the bill say it could prevent abortions around the 20th week of pregnancy, during the second trimester.
“Because of medical advances, there are babies that are being born at 20, 21, 19 weeks,” said Senate sponsor Anitere Flores, R-Miami.
Democrats disagreed. Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, said during the intense Senate debate that the legislation “ties the hands” of physicians.
“Abortion is a deeply emotional, personal and complex decision that should be left to a woman, her family, her faith and her doctor,” she said. “And we’re not doing this here.”
According to statistics, the measure would not affect the vast majority of abortions if passed. No abortions were performed after 24 weeks of pregnancy in 2013, and most (65,098 out of 71,503 total) were performed in the first 12 weeks.
But the bill would also restrict access to third-trimester abortions if the pregnancy was deemed viable, only allowing them to save a pregnant woman’s life “or avert a serious risk of imminent substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman other than a psychological condition.”
The woman’s mental health, thus, would not be a factor of consideration, a key point of contention during the Senate debate.
The Florida Senate Judiciary Committee approved the bill in Tuesday along party lines. The House will take up its own version, HB 1047, on Wednesday.