Florida Lawmaker Introduces 'Extreme' Abortion Bill Nearly Identical to Texas' Controversial Law

The bill rewrites the state's laws and allows private citizens to sue anyone who facilitates an abortion after six weeks, just like Texas' law that went into effect this month

Pro-choice protesters march outside the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021 in Austin, TX.
Pro-choice protesters march outside the Texas State Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 1, in Austin, Texas. Photo: Sergio Flores For The Washington Post via Getty

A Florida lawmaker introduced a bill that's comparable to the controversial law in Texas that essentially banned abortions and deputized private citizens to target anyone who assists in one.

Republican State Rep. Webster Barnaby filed the bill Wednesday, presenting the potential law (which would go in effect July 2022) that would fine "at least $10,000 for each abortion that the defendant performed or induced in violation of this chapter, and for each abortion performed or induced in violation of this chapter which the defendant aided or abetted."

The "Florida Heartbeat Act" changes the state's abortion laws from using the word "fetus," instead replacing it with "unborn child," and it effectively bans abortions after a heartbeat is detected, with few exceptions. Differing from Texas, this bill allows exceptions for rape, incest and life-threatening cases with the appropriate documentation to confirm. Generally, a heartbeat is detected at six weeks, before many people know they are pregnant.

Just like Texas' law, a person can sue someone for "aiding and abetting" another person for receiving an abortion that would be prohibited by the law, and they can bring the case within six years afterward.

A spokesperson for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis told the Associated Press in a statement, "Governor DeSantis is pro-life. The Governor's office is aware that the bill was filed today and like all legislation, we will be monitoring it as it moves through the legislative process in the coming months."

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Democrat State Rep. Anna Eskamani, an outspoken advocate for abortion rights, said in a statement in response, "This gross excuse of a bill attacks women and birthing people who are seeking an abortion before they even know they are pregnant. It also attempts to mimic Texas by creating a process for civil action towards those that help someone in Florida end a pregnancy after 6 weeks. Extreme attacks on reproductive health are not about policy, it is about control, shame, and will negatively impact communities who already experience barriers to accessing care."

Eskamani added, "We must stop these extreme anti-abortion bills and I know the people of Florida overwhelmingly agree."

Last week, State Sen. Kathleen Passidomo, a pro-life Republican set to become senate president next year, told the Sarasota Herald-Tribune that she opposes at least one part of the bill: "I do have concerns with the neighbor versus neighbor [aspect]. That's very troubling."

The controversial law in Texas essentially eliminates the rights of Roe v. Wade. The bill prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy and does not allow exceptions for pregnancies that are the result of incest or rape.

Under the law, private citizens can sue abortion clinics they suspect of performing illegal abortions after six weeks, as well as anyone who aided in an abortion, including driving someone to an appointment or helping them with the cost. If the lawsuit is successful, they will be awarded a minimum of $10,000.

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Abortion providers in Texas have already attempted to stop the bill, asking the Supreme Court to issue an emergency block last month before it went into effect. They argued that the law "would immediately and catastrophically reduce abortion access in Texas, barring care for at least 85 percent of Texas abortion patients (those who are six weeks pregnant or greater) and likely forcing many abortion clinics ultimately to close."

The court voted 5 to 4 against the request, allowing the law to remain in effect.

Vice President Kamala Harris said in a statement at the time, "This decision is not the last word on Roe v. Wade, and we will not stand by and allow our nation to go back to the days of back-alley abortions. We will not abide by cash incentives for virtual vigilantes and intimidation for patients. We will use every lever of our Administration to defend the right to safe and legal abortion —and to strengthen that right."

The Supreme Court is expected to take up Texas and other states' challenges to Roe v. Wade when they're back in session in October.

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