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Proposed Legislation Would Restrict Abortion In Florida

Legislation introduced by a pair of Florida legislators would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported.

State Rep. Joe Gruters of Sarasota is sponsoring the bill, which would follow the actions of 15 other states, along with Sarasota state Sen. Greg Steube.

The proposal is considered a direct challenge to the U.S. Supreme Court's ruling that abortions can be prohibited only when a fetus is viable outside the womb, typically considered around 24 weeks. Florida law bans abortions under most circumstances in the third trimester of pregnancy — after 24 weeks — or if a physician determines the fetus is viable earlier.

Anti-abortion proponents claim there is compelling evidence that a fetus can feel pain starting around 20 weeks, although leading medical professionals in the field dispute those claims. Groups looking to restrict abortions have been pushing to make fetal pain the standard for when the procedure can be performed, rather than viability.

"I just can't imagine a baby having to feel pain and going through this," Gruters told the Herald-Tribune.

The first 20-week abortion ban passed in Nebraska in 2010, marking the beginning of a national push by anti-abortion groups on the issue. The U.S. House of Representatives passed similar legislation in 2015, but it failed to advance in the U.S. Senate, where Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio was the bill's sponsor.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to rule on the fetal pain issue in 2014, leaving it up to the states for now.

Ohio is the latest state to adopt a fetal pain bill. Republican Gov. John Kasich signed the legislation into law last month.