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Local abortion activists anticipate fetal heartbeat legislation to be enacted in Florida

The Texas law would prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around...
The Texas law would prohibit abortions once a fetal heartbeat can be detected, usually around six weeks. If allowed to remain in force, it would be the most dramatic restriction on abortion rights since the high court’s landmark Roe v. Wade decision legalized abortion across the country in 1973.(Source: CNN/POOL)
Published: Sep. 8, 2021 at 7:28 PM CDT
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - The Supreme Court this week allowed a strict new abortion law in Texas. Florida Republicans are expected to push for similar legislation.

The Texas measure bans abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, which is before most women know they’re pregnant.

Last week, Florida’s Senate president said the legislature is already working on its own bill.

Although Texas is a more populous state, Florida has higher abortion rates: The second highest in the nation.

In 2018, about 70,000 abortions were performed in Florida, many of which occurred after six weeks and would not have been possible under a heartbeat law.

“We are probably in a better position than ever before in Florida to enact a heartbeat law,” said Andrew Shirvell, founder of Florida Voice for the Unborn.

Although Roe v. Wade provides constitutional protection for a woman’s right to have an abortion, Texas lawmakers skirted that ruling by introducing a heartbeat bill that relies on private citizens, rather than the government, to enforce it.

“It is a completely novel type of bill,” Shirvell said. “It’s never been tried before on the state level.”

Pro-life advocates, like Shirvell, see this as a major win, paving the way for similar legislation in Florida

“I would love to have maybe like a personhood bill in Florida,” Shirvell said. “That’s just probably not politically feasible, unfortunately, but this is the next best thing.”

Pro-choice advocates, on the other hand, fear the impact this kind of bill could have in the state.

“That doesn’t create a pathway under which people get less abortions,” Lauren Brenzel with the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood said. “It just makes abortion access harder.”

Brenzel said this kind of law would disproportionately impact low-income women who can’t afford to travel to other states to get an abortion.

It would also impact women outside the state who come to Florida seeking abortions.

Tallahassee’s Planned parenthood sees patients not just from Florida, but from Louisiana, Alabama and Georgia, which have tighter abortion restrictions.

“This could be the closest place where they’re able to access abortion,” Brenzel said.

More than 800 abortions have been performed in Leon County so far this year.

Brenzel says if a six week abortion ban does come to Florida, Planned Parenthood will explore all of its legal options to keep providing care to its patients.

“We’re gonna fight this the entire way,” she said. “We’re gonna make sure people are able to obtain safe legal abortion, and we’re gonna do everything we can to make sure that people can get health care in the state.”

Fetal heartbeat legislation was introduced in Florida in both 2019 and 2020 but did not pass.

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