Abortion rights supporters kicked out of gallery ahead of the vote.
Florida is now the third state to move a 15-week ban this session
Just after midnight, members of the Florida House of Representatives approved a 15-week abortion ban, voting against the will of Floridians and the advice of medical experts to rob Floridians of their reproductive freedom.
Legislators voted on the ban, which will eliminate Floridians’ access to safe, legal abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy with virtually no exceptions, in the dead of night and without the public present. As debate closed, activists opposed to the bill — including local Planned Parenthood staff and volunteers — were forced from the gallery by Capitol police. This escalation came just weeks after Republican legislators ejected students testifying against the abortion ban from a committee hearing. The bill now heads to the Florida Senate for final consideration.
“This vote is disrespectful and cruel to all Floridians. Stripping people of the freedom to make the best medical decision for themselves and their families is wrong, and our elected representatives should know better,” said Stephanie Fraim, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida. “This isn’t what the people of Florida want. While these politicians are voting to take away our freedoms, the physicians, clinicians and staff at Planned Parenthood health centers are providing much needed care to our community. And we will continue to do so, no matter what.”
“This bill, like all abortion bans, is a transparent attempt by politicians who oppose abortion to control who can make decisions about their own bodies, lives, and futures,” said Lillian Tamayo, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida. “When people are denied access to abortion, it can have serious long-term consequences on their health and well-being — and that of their family, including their children. To put patients and families in this situation is unconscionable.”
“Florida is the third state this week to move a 15-week ban through a legislative chamber,” said Alexis McGill Johnson, President of Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “Make no mistake — abortion opponents are wasting no time in limiting access to abortion ahead of the Supreme Court’s decision on Mississippi’s 15-week ban. We know they won’t stop there. They will continue trying to pass restriction after restriction until abortion is outlawed outright. This fight is not over, and Planned Parenthood Action Fund, and our supporters, will hold those who voted for this ban accountable.”
Floridians already contend with a number of barriers to abortion, including limited or nonexistent insurance coverage, especially for people insured through Medicaid; travel from rural areas; and a parental consent law that delays care for young people who don’t have parental support. A 15-week ban will only push abortion access further out of reach for these people and others, forcing some patients to travel even greater distances.
The effects of this ban will fall hardest on Black and Latino Floridians. Black women and Latinas are disproportionately more likely to have low incomes, live in rural areas, and lack access to health care. For Black Floridians who may now be forced to remain pregnant, this ban could be especially deadly. Nationally, Black women experience maternal morbidity and mortality at a rate three times higher than white women, largely as the result of systemic racism in the medical field and in society at large. This disparity continues to bear out in Florida, where Black women are twice as likely as white women to die during or shortly after pregnancy. The obstacles created by this abortion ban will be compounded for immigrants who often are ineligible for public health coverage and may be unable to travel for care due to immigration enforcement.
If the U.S. Supreme Court dismantles Roe v. Wade by upholding a similar Mississippi ban in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health or overturns Roe altogether, by this summer, abortion access will be decimated for millions of people — not just in Florida, but across the Southeast and Midwest.
The fast-tracking of this 15-week abortion ban is an alarming reminder that even in states where reproductive rights have historically been protected, abortion access could quickly be dismantled. Just last session in Florida, legislators took no action on a proposed 20-week abortion ban because it was seen as too extreme. But now, they are pushing an abortion ban that denies bodily autonomy to countless people — with no regard for the harm this ban will cause.
In addition to the students, survivors, and other civically engaged citizens who have traveled across the state to testify against this abortion ban at every committee meeting, more than 600 clinicians recently submitted a letter to the Florida Legislature opposing the abortion ban, citing the significant harm their patients will face if this ban is enacted.
Opponents of HB 5 marched to the Capitol in Tallahassee, protesting the 15-week abortion ban on Wednesday, Feb. 16. Credit: Colin Hackley, 2022
The Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates is the nonpartisan advocacy and political organization representing Florida’s two Planned Parenthood affiliates. The Alliance engages in educational and electoral activity, including legislative advocacy, voter education, and grassroots organizing to promote the Planned Parenthood mission.