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Florida lawmakers file pre-viability abortion ban bills

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (BP) – Florida legislators filed two bills Tuesday (Jan. 11) to ban abortion pre-viability, making it the latest state to try to limit the procedure as the U.S. Supreme Court rethinks abortion law.

Florida House Bill 167 would outlaw abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected, widely interpreted as six weeks of pregnancy. Florida House Bill 5 would limit abortions at 15 weeks, according to the bills detailed at myfloridahouse.gov.

The Supreme Court is expected to rule this year on the constitutionality of pre-viability limits on elective abortions in the Mississippi case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. Last year, the court refused to block a six-week ban on abortion in Texas, allowing the law to take effect as it is challenged in lower courts.

Fla. Gov. Ron DeSantis has not explicitly endorsed either bill, but has said a 15-week ban makes sense.

“I think if you look at what’s been done in some of these other states – I mean when you start talking about 15 weeks, where you have really serious pain and heartbeats and all this stuff,” Newsweek quoted DeSantis Tuesday, “having protections I think is something that makes a lot of sense.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists sets the earliest potential fetal viability at 24 weeks. With medical advances, some hospitals attempt to save babies born as early as 22 weeks, the New York Times reported last month.

Southern Baptist ethicists consider the U.S. Supreme Court case the greatest opportunity the nation has to overturn post-viability abortion established in Roe v. Wade in 1973.

“With each passing day, more and more people recognize preborn lives are worthy of protection,” Chelsea Sobolik, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission’s acting director of public policy, has said. “The Dobbs case provides another chance for the Court to come to that same conclusion and affirm the fundamental right to life.”

The Florida bills allow exceptions to save the mother’s life, and/or to prevent serious injury to the mother if the fetus has a fatal abnormality, Newsweek reported.

Texas is the only state that has an active law banning abortion when a fetal heartbeat is detected. A similar law passed in 2021 in Arkansas was struck down in U.S. district court.

Most states (43) limit abortions at certain stages of gestation, according to the Guttmacher Institute. In 18 states, the procedure is limited to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Four states specify abortion limitations at 24 weeks, and 20 others set the limit at viability. Virginia allows abortions up until the third trimester.

If Roe v. Wade were removed, 22 states have laws in place that would outlaw or restrict abortion, while 15 states and the District of Columbia would continue to legalize abortion. In Vermont, Oregon and D.C., abortion would be allowed throughout pregnancy.