'Fetal heartbeat' abortion bill filed in Florida House

New bill would ban abortions after heartbeat is detectable

1971: The Comstock Act prohibiting information on abortion is repealed. Abortion under "certain" conditions is allowed in 14 states, while four states guarantee a woman the choice of pregnancy (iStock)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A House Republican filed a proposal Thursday that would block physicians from performing abortions if fetal heartbeats have been detected.

Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola, filed the measure (HB 235) for consideration during the legislative session that starts March 5.

Hill said the decision to file the bill came down to his constitutional oath.

"My oath said that I would protect life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness -- life being the first one," Hill said. 

The proposal would lead to third-degree felony charges for any “person who knowingly or purposefully performs or induces an abortion on a pregnant woman with the specific intent of causing or abetting the termination of the life of the unborn human being whose fetal heartbeat has been detected,” though it would include limited exceptions in situations such as when a woman’s life is in danger.

Kimberly Scott, with Planned Parenthood, called the bill "the most dangerous bill that we have seen for reproductive health in the Florida Legislature.”

Hill says a fetal heartbeat can usually be detected after 18 days. Planned Parenthood says six weeks.
Either way, it would be a major decrease from the 24 weeks currently allowed under Florida law for an abortion to be performed.

According to Planned Parenthood, legal challenges would undoubtedly ensue if the bill became law.

“They spend millions of taxpayer dollars in order to defend this type of legislation in the courts," Scott said. "This legislation is not in effect anywhere because it is so blatantly unconstitutional."

Hill said, however, the shifting makeup of the courts might help his bill hold up.

“We think we can start overturning a lot of these abortion rulings that are killing the unborn," Hill said.

So-called “fetal heartbeat” legislation has drawn heavy debate in other states and, in some cases, has led to legal battles about whether it violates abortion rights.

For example, Iowa lawmakers last spring passed a fetal heartbeat bill, and a judge heard arguments in December about its constitutionality, according to numerous news reports. 

Legislation in 2017 aimed at banning abortions in Florida after 20 weeks died in early committee meetings.