Abortion bills die in Florida's Capitol for the first time in eight years
Lawmakers left Tallahassee last week without accomplishing an agenda item that has been at the forefront for years: They passed no legislation restricting abortions or targeting abortion clinics.
It’s the first time in eight regular sessions of the Legislature — since 2010 — that abortion bills haven’t passed.
A bill (HB 19) that would have allowed women to sue their doctors within 10 years of an abortion if they develop an injury or “emotional distress” cleared a few House committees but never moved in the Senate. Lawmakers also passed over a bill (HB 203) banning abortion at 20 weeks after fertilization.
“Most bills don’t make it all the way through the process,” explained Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee where HB 19 stalled in the House. “You have to address issues that have to be addressed as well as issues that can be addressed and appear to be moving in the other chamber. … You’ve got to prioritize based on what can get done.”
Because HB 19 never had a single hearing the Florida Senate, which would be required to sign on for it to become law, it wouldn't have made sense to take up valuable committee time continue hearing it in the House, Sprowls said.
Legislation (HB 969) that would have guaranteed a state contract for the Florida Pregnancy Care Network, a chain of clinics that advocates against abortion and whose board includes a former House member and a one-time candidate for state representative, passed the House but stalled in the Senate.
The bills’ failure is a rare victory for abortion-rights organizations like Planned Parenthood, which in recent years have had to fend off efforts to defund non-abortion services, a mandatory 24-hour waiting period and even an outright ban on abortion. In most cases (except the total ban), bills have passed just to be blocked by judges.
Laura Goodhue, executive director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, credits grassroots activism for killing the bills.
“Ever since the election and Women’s Marches in January, Planned Parenthood has seen huge spikes on our volunteers and supporters,” she said. “As a Planned Parenthood advocate and somebody who’s seen an increase in support for Planned Parenthood, I believe it was a factor."
However, it's worth noting that Republican leadership in the Legislature generally doesn't support Planned Parenthood and has for years pushed back against them, including proposing budget language in 2016 that would have stripped funding for non-abortion services from them.
Sprowls has voted against the group's position repeatedly while in office, as have other members of House leadership.