Florida will soon become one of five states in 2019 to introduce legislation to ban abortion once a baby’s heartbeat has been detected. Representative Mike Hill (R-Pensacola) filed the measure for consideration during the legislative session beginning March 5th. Hill said his constitutional oath played a part in introducing the bill: “My oath said that I would protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness — life being the first one.” Missouri, South Carolina, Kentucky, and Mississippi all have either introduced or promised to introduce heartbeat bills this year.
— Women’s March St. Johns (@WMStJohns) January 14, 2019
A baby’s heartbeat begins around six weeks gestation, but is typically able to be picked up by Doppler from eight to 10 weeks gestation. Some research indicates the heartbeat may start as early as 16 days after conception.
The bill, HB235, would make it a third-degree felony for “[a]ny person [to] knowingly or purposefully perform or induce an abortion on a pregnant woman with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of the unborn human being whose fetal heartbeat has been detected.” It would also require physicians to perform an examination for a detectable heartbeat. During his campaign, Governor Ron DeSantis promised to sign legislation what would make abortion illegal after a fetal heartbeat was detected. In Florida, third degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison, and a fine of up to $5,000.
Similar to other bills, including one introduced in Kentucky, the proposed legislation makes exceptions for the life of the mother, provided that two physicians “certify in writing that, in reasonable medical judgment, the termination of the pregnancy is necessary to save the pregnant woman’s life or avert a serious risk of substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman other than a psychological condition.”
The legislative initiative has already received pushback from state pro-abortion groups. Laura Goodhue, executive director for the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, called the measure “clearly unconstitutional,” and stated that it was “another attempt by a Florida politician – we’ve seen it before – at criminalizing doctors and interfering in women’s private medical decisions.”
Currently Republicans hold the majority in both Florida’s House and Senate, giving the legislation a good chance of becoming law.