On Monday, Florida state Rep. David Borrero (R) introduced a bill, HB1519, that seeks not only to implement a near-total abortion ban in the state but also classifies performing an abortion as a third-degree felony. The proposed penalty includes a potential imprisonment term of up to 10 years, a fine of up to $100,000, or both.
HB1519 defines a “person” as “including an unborn child beginning at the moment of fertilization,” therefore granting fetuses constitutional rights. Borrero, the representative who filed the bill, has said that he believes that “a person exists from the moment of fertilization.” This language is concerningly similar to that of fetal personhood bills that would equate abortions with murder.
“Florida Republicans continue to show us just how far they are willing to go with the filing of HB1519,” Florida state Rep. Anna V. Eskamani (D) said in a statement. “It’s unhinged and extreme and not what the majority of Floridians want.”
Critics of the bill are especially concerned that HB1519 bars individuals, regardless of their location, from manufacturing, selling, or mailing abortion pills if they know they are “likely to be used in Florida.”
“Florida is trying to make it illegal for drug makers who sell abortion drugs to do business in Florida. This is an attempt to effectively ban medicinal abortions (which constitute half of all cases) in all 50 states,” writer Brynn Tannehill said on social media.
The legal landscape regarding mifepristone, the abortion pill, has been undergoing rapid changes since April of last year when the District Court for the Northern District of Texas mandated that the Food and Drug Administration withdraw its approval of the pill utilized in medication abortions. In August, the conservative Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ordered a ban on telemedicine prescriptions and shipments of the abortion pill which will not take effect until the ruling is reviewed by the Supreme Court. A recent study found that thousands of women in the U.S. are requesting an “advance provision” of abortion medication in fear of losing access to the abortion pill.
Florida currently has a 15-week abortion ban in place which is being challenged in the courts. If the conservative-controlled state Supreme Court finds that the abortion restriction is constitutional, then a six-week ban, which was signed into law last year, would be triggered. Reproductive rights advocates in the state are hoping to circumvent these abortion restrictions by putting the right to an abortion on the 2024 ballot, similarly to the successful abortion campaign in Ohio.
“As we organize on the ground in defense of reproductive freedom, we must continue to fight like hell in the legislature,” Eskamani said. “Floridians deserve the ability to make personal and private decisions about their future and we will not stop fighting until that vision is the reality for all.”
While a constitutional amendment protecting the right to an abortion in Florida would preempt HB1519, conservatives in the state seem to be desperately trying to undermine the ballot initiative. Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody has been an outspoken critic of the abortion rights ballot initiative and is opposing the inclusion of the proposed measure on the 2024 ballot. Last week, Florida’s Supreme Court announced that it will hear oral arguments next month from Moody, who is challenging the ballot effort. If the abortion rights measure makes it onto the 2024 ballot, it will need to receive at least 60 percent of votes in favor to become law.