Monday, October 18, 2021

Florida lawmaker says he’s drafting a law to ban abortion after 20 weeks, like Texas law under challenge

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A Florida state lawmaker says he’s drafting a law that would be the most comprehensive abortion ban in the country — which includes a legal loophole similar to one allowed in a Texas law that has been under court challenge for nearly two years.

Rep. Frank Artiles, a Miami Republican, said in a Wednesday interview with the Miami Herald that he believes banning abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy is unconstitutional and has a “pretty good chance” of passing.

The 20-week ban would affect all abortions except those necessary to save the life of the mother. The Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade ruling made abortions legal after the second trimester, which extends until around 24 weeks.

“We passed [the ban in Florida] in the Senate last year, but the public outcry was, ‘More women will die and clinics will close if you pass it,'” Artiles said, referencing the Senate bill he helped pass in 2016 that currently sits in committee. “We heard that argument and decided to use it as a model for our bill.”

Artiles’ 20-week ban mirrors an anti-abortion measure blocked from passage in Texas’ last legislative session by a federal judge who found it vague.

Artiles’ 20-week bill, when combined with a similar ban passed in Arkansas last year, would be the nation’s most comprehensive ban on abortion, barring abortions after 20 weeks in all other states. The Arkansas bill passed in 2015, but was overturned by a federal appeals court.

Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, said in a recent interview with The Associated Press that he is open to revisiting the two bills — similar to the one enacted in Florida — “if we thought it was just fair for women to be able to go to a doctor and have an abortion.”

Louisiana and Texas are the only other states that ban most abortions at 20 weeks. That ban was struck down by a federal judge who found that a third trimester allows abortions at that stage to save the life of the mother.

The 20-week ban doesn’t have a legal challenge in Florida yet, but had been under consideration by the Senate Public Health Committee. But it appears unlikely that it will advance.

The Florida Senate passed a bill banning abortions at 20 weeks on Jan. 31, 2017, by a vote of 19-7, but the sponsor withdrew the bill after lawyers for Planned Parenthood Southeast and other groups said it was unconstitutional. Lawmakers in both chambers approved bills to ban abortion 20 weeks after fertilization the same year.

The Senate Public Health Committee was asked Wednesday about Artiles’ 20-week bill, but a representative with the committee did not comment on the proposal.

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