Florida Senate passes a bill to ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy
The vote was mostly along party lines, with two Republicans joining Democrats in opposition. The measure still must pass the House before going to the governor.
The Florida Senate on Monday approved a bill to ban abortions after six weeks. The proposal, backed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, must still be approved by the House before it reaches the governor's desk.
The vote prompted demonstrations at the state's Capitol that resulted in the arrest of the leader of the Florida Democratic Party, Nikki Fried, and state Senate minority leader Lauren Book, D-Plantation.
The bill passed the Republican-controlled Senate, 26-13. The vote was mostly along party lines, with Sen. Corey Simon, R-Tallahassee, and Sen. Alexis Calatayud, R-Miami, joining Democrats in opposition.
While state senators spoke on the chamber floor, several people in the gallery shouted down Republican lawmakers who were testifying in favor of the bill.
After a warning from Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, another outburst led her to clear the chamber's viewing area.
It came as Calatayud seemed to speak in favor of the measure even as she announced she would vote against it. She said her decision is based on the promises she made to her constituents.
Opponents say the bill would effectively end legal abortions in Florida, as many women don’t know they are pregnant at six weeks.
Before the vote, Book made one last plea to her Republican colleagues.
"Look in your hearts and know that if you vote for this ban, things will get worse,” she said. “Women will get sick. Women will be permanently disabled. Women will die."
During Monday's floor debate, Democrat Sen. Lori Berman called the bill "inhumane."
"Decisions about abortion should be between a woman, her doctor and her trusted circle of confidantes,” she said. "Not her legislators."
But Republican Sen. Erin Grall defended the bill she sponsored, saying, "The termination of life meets the definition of murder."
The six-week abortion bill features exceptions for survivors of rape and incest up to 15 weeks. Patients are required to present proof such as a restraining order or police report.
It would also require that the drugs used in medication-induced abortions — which make up the majority of those provided nationally — could be dispensed only in person by a physician.
In February, DeSantis indicated support for the six-week ban saying, “We’re for pro-life. I urge the Legislature to work, produce good stuff, and we will sign.”
The new bill would only take effect if the state's current 15-week ban is upheld in an ongoing legal challenge that is before the state Supreme Court. Litigants argue the law violates a privacy clause in the Florida Constitution that previously helped protect abortion rights.
According to a recent poll by the Public Religion Research Institute, 64% of Floridians believe abortion should be legal in most or all cases.
Democrats and groups advocating for abortion rights say the proposal disproportionally affects low-income women and people of color.
Despite being kicked out of the Capitol, activists such as Kat Duesterhaus, communications director for the National Organization for Women, say they won’t back down and will continue to protest abortion restrictions.
“Maternal mortality rates are three times higher in states that banned abortion post-Dobbs,” she shouted from the chamber gallery before being escorted out of the building.
Later, Fried, the state' s former Agriculture Commissioner, and Book were arrested late Monday at a sit-in protest outside the Capitol. Images shared on social media showed the women and other demonstrators as they are handcuffed by police officers.
In a news release, the Tallahassee Police Department said that protesters were told they would have to leave after sunset, but 11 people refused to go and were arrested for trespassing. Police did not identify those arrested.
The protest had initially been planned for Kleman Plaza, then last week the city moved the group’s permit to City Hall before revoking the permit Friday. In a statement, the city said that decision was made after learning the group hoped to camp out overnight.
The statement also said the city allowed the group to use the area surrounding City Hall during "normal operating hours."
"TPD encourages individuals exercising their First Amendment right of peaceful assembly to do so in accordance with the law. TPD supports non-disruptive demonstrations and works diligently to protect and uphold the rights of citizens every day," the statement said.
Information from WFSU's Regan McCarthy and the Associated Press was used in this report.
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