State Politics

Lawmakers will consider total ban on abortions in Florida

By MICHAEL AUSLEN

Herald/Times Tallahassee Bureau

TALLAHASSEE — A lawmaker's pitch to ban abortions in Florida will be heard Monday afternoon, just hours after the U.S. Supreme Court reiterated its long-standing ruling affirming women's right to the procedure.

Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, is proposing to make performing an abortion or operating an abortion clinic a first-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

He's put forward similar legislation every year since 2010, but it has never before been considered by a committee, the first step required to pass a bill into law. That changes at 4 p.m., when the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee, chaired by Rep. Carlos Trujillo, R-Miami, will hear debate on the bill (HB 865).

"The Legislature finds that all human life comes from the Creator, has an inherent value that cannot be quantified by man, and begins at the earliest biological development of a fertilized human egg," the bill says.

It goes on to say that "personal liberty is not a license to kill or otherwise destroy any form of human life," and that the state has an interest in stopping abortions, unless the safety of the mother is in question.

It's likely that Van Zant's proposal, if passed by the Legislature, would lead to lawsuits citing the Supreme Court's 1973 ruling inRoe vs. Wade. That became even more likely Monday morning after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned an abortion ban in North Dakota.

That law prohibited abortions when a fetal heartbeat is detected as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. The law never took effect, but abortion rights supporters called it the strictest anti-abortion law in the country.

The high court last week also rejected Arkansas' bid to enforce its own fetal heartbeat law, banning some abortions at 12 weeks.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story. 

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