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Florida Senate passes bill to ban abortions after 6 weeks

Senate minority leader, Florida Democratic Party chair arrested during protests

Abortion rights supporters rally in Orlando in May 2022. Florida's Senate on Tuesday voted to approve a measure that would ban abortions after six weeks. File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI
1 of 3 | Abortion rights supporters rally in Orlando in May 2022. Florida's Senate on Tuesday voted to approve a measure that would ban abortions after six weeks. File Photo by Chris Chew/UPI | License Photo

April 4 (UPI) -- The Florida state Senate has passed a measure supported by Gov. Ron DeSantis that would ban abortions after six weeks, curtailing the current 15-week ban.

Senate Bill 300 passed 26-13 Monday with two Republicans joining the opposition, and the proposal was likely to pass a vote in the GOP-dominated House next week before heading to the governor's desk for final approval.

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If approved, the measure would put Florida on par with abortion restrictions in other Republican-led states.

Protests erupted during debate at the Florida Capitol in Tallahassee, with demonstrators chanting "People will die" and "Abortion is health care," which led state police to clear the gallery.

At a demonstration later in the day, Florida Democratic Party Chairwoman Nikki Fried and Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book were among nearly a dozen people arrested outside Tallahassee City Hall.

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The Florida Democratic Party confirmed the arrests on Twitter.

Florida Republicans introduced the measure in early March to restrict the current 15-week ban that was approved last year and provide exceptions only for victims of rape or incest, though a restraining order, police report, medical record or other court order must be provided.

The proposal calls for abortion pills to be administered in person by a doctor instead of dispensed through the mail as medicated abortions account for more than half of all terminated pregnancies in the United States.

Lawmakers also put $30 million in the bill to help the Florida Department of Health expand health counseling and community outreach programs.

The bill advanced as the state Supreme Court was weighing a legal challenge to Florida's current 15-week ban, which could potentially derail the bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Erin Grall, of Vero Beach.

Across the country, GOP-led states have enacted increasing health restrictions following the repeal of Roe vs. Wade last June, in which the Supreme Court barred the constitutional right to an abortion.

Since the ruling, nearly two dozen states have passed abortion bans or other restrictions, while at least 14 legislatures nationwide have also placed limits on medications that are widely used to end pregnancies.

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Abortions, however, remain legal in many other states that have not moved to change existing laws.

If passed, Florida's new ban would further limit access to abortions throughout the South as the procedure has been declared illegal in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi, while the Georgia legislature has banned abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, but at that instance many women do not realize they are pregnant.

Republicans opposed to the bill included Sen. Cory Simon, of the Democratic stronghold of Leon County, who did not express any viewpoints on the day; and Sen. Alexis Calatayud, of Miami, who said she fell in line with her constituents despite her support for several aspects of the bill.

"I'm not supporting this bill today, but I believe it will pass and it will become the law in this state," she said after voting against the bill twice in committee hearings. "And I believe it will go a long way to help change the hearts and minds influenced by a decade of anti-life culture."

During debate Monday, Democrats assailed the bill, arguing it placed religious rights above women's health while encroaching further into the private decisions made between patients and doctors.

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Earlier on the Senate floor, Sen. Book announced her phone number and pleaded with any woman considering an abortion to call her office for help.

"Please don't take matters into your own hands. Do not put your safety at risk. No back-alley abortions," she said. "There are people and funds that will help you. No matter where you live, no matter how desperate of a situation you are in, no matter how helpless it may seem. I promise, you are not alone."

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