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A House committee is set to hear a bill that would ban most abortions after 15 weeks

A woman in a red suit with dark brown hair talks with others in a government building.
Phelan M. Ebenhack/AP
FR121174 AP
Florida Sen. Kelli Stargel talks with guests during a legislative session, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2022, in Tallahassee, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

A new bill in the Florida legislature would ban most abortions after 15 weeks. The measure is scheduled for its first committee hearing Wednesday. Already advocates and lawmakers are lining up to fight for their side of the issue.

The measure is titled Reducing Fetal Infant Mortality. Rep. Angie Nixon (D-Jacksonville) called the name "a huge slap in the face."

“When I saw that I got pissed," Nixon told a group of reproduction rights advocates during an online meeting. "You wanna know why I got pissed? Because I am a Black mom, I am a Black woman, and I just had a baby less than two years ago and I realized the risk that Black women have—especially our babies. We suffer from infant mortality 2.3 times more than white babies."

Nixon said the bill title is misleading. She said if lawmakers want to address infant mortality in Florida, she has some other ideas.

“What they can do is start trusting and believing in Black women when they say they don’t feel good when they’re going to the doctor. What they can do is instead of putting out all these moneys and incentives for law enforcement officers to come from out of the state, they can make sure that they are incentivizing more Black doctors," Nixon said.

Republicans Rep. Erin Grall (R-Vero Beach) and Sen. Kelli Stargel (R-Lakeland) are behind the measure. Stargel has long been a supporter of legislation that reduces access to abortions. For her it’s personal. She was 17 when she found out she was pregnant.

“I did not want to tell my mother that I was pregnant. It was probably the hardest conversation I’ve had with anybody in my life. But I’m so glad I did," Stargel said on the Senate floor where she's told her story many times.

The measure, which prohibits most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy largely mirrors a Mississippi law was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court Dec. 1 and is widely expected to be upheld.

Republicans are hopeful that outcome could pave the way for a change in Florida where a right to privacy clause in the state constitution has been used to limit abortion restriction before fetal viability. John Stemberger is President of the Florida Family Policy Council, an organization that supports greater abortion regulation. He said the new more conservative makeup of Florida’s Supreme Court could also eventually play a role. He believes there’s a chance the state supreme court could find the privacy clause does not relate to abortion.

“We now have a very clear-thinking, constitutionalist Florida Supreme Court. I think if there is a bill and its challenged and brought before them, I think they’ll make a correct decision in realizing this was never intended to confer a right to abortion," Stemberger said.

Meanwhile, a Texas-style abortion bill that prohibits most abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected and allows citizens enforcement through civil suits, has been filed in the state. However, lawmakers and advocates agree it’s unlikely to get traction during this legislative session.

Follow @Regan_McCarthy

Regan McCarthy is the Assistant News Director for WFSU Public Media. Before coming to Tallahassee, Regan graduated with honors from Indiana University’s Ernie Pyle School of Journalism. She worked for several years for NPR member station WFIU in Bloomington, Ind., where she covered local and state government and produced feature and community stories.

Phone: (850) 645-6090 | rmccarthy@fsu.edu

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