Florida lawmaker files bill banning abortions after 'fetal heartbeat' detected

A Florida lawmaker has filed a bill that would ban pregnant women from getting abortions if a physician can detect a fetal heartbeat.

HB 235, filed on Thursday by Pensacola Republican Rep. Mike Hill, would also force doctors to offer pregnant women the opportunity to "view or hear the fetal heartbeat and present statistical data regarding the probability of survival."

A fetal heartbeat can be detected as early as six weeks after a woman’s last menstrual period, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion and reproductive rights. The American Pregnancy Association says most women discover they're pregnant during the fourth to seventh week of pregnancy.

Currently, abortions in Florida are prohibited after the third trimester, unless the mother's life or health is at risk.

The measure proposes a third-degree felony charge for a physician 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" with limited exceptions for when the mother's life is in danger, according to the bill.

During the campaign for Florida governor, then-Republican candidate Ron DeSantis pledged to sign "fetal heartbeat" legislation. But federal judges around the country have consistently struck down similar proposals because they fly directly in the face of Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court case that prohibits bans on abortions performed before fetal viability, which starts around 24 weeks of gestation. North Dakota spent $491,016 in legal costs defending its 2013 "fetal heartbeat" law after a federal court found it unconstitutional, the Associated Press reports.

Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando, calls HB 235 an "extreme anti-reproductive health care bill."

"Decisions around a woman's pregnancy, whether it be to raise a child, choose adoption, or end a pregnancy, should be left between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her faith – not politicians," Eskamani says in a statement. "Time and time again we see politicians in Florida and across the country shame women with legislation that does nothing to improve our health and wellbeing, and everything to do with a politically-motivated and extreme anti-reproductive health care agenda. If our legislative body truly cares about reducing the rate of abortion in this state, than we will focus our attention on access to contraception and comprehensive sexual health education, not bills like HB 235."

Another Central Florida Democrat, Rep. Amy Mercado, also filed legislation relating to abortion Thursday. HB 227 makes it misdemeanor crime to intentionally injure, intimidate or interfere with patients or workers entering abortion clinics, and it prohibits intentionally damaging or destroying a reproductive health services facility.

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