On Wednesday, a Florida state representative introduced a bill that would ban most abortions in the state, mimicking the Texas six-week ban that went into effect earlier this month.
Rep. Webster Barnaby (R) introduced HB 167 into the Florida state legislature. Like Texas’s SB 8, the Florida bill would ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy. Also similar to the Texas ban, HB 167 would rely on private citizens to enforce the law, rewarding individuals with $10,000 if they successfully sue anyone who helps a person obtain an abortion.
Because the law would be enforced by private citizens rather than state officials, it is much more difficult for the law to be blocked in court. This strategy of using private citizens to enforce the ban has so far been successful in preventing the Texas law from being struck down. For this reason, Florida is using the same strategy and implementing this “copycat” bill, HB 167.
“We are horrified to see anti-choice politicians in Florida following in Texas’ footsteps, and there’s no question that lawmakers hostile to reproductive freedom in other states will do the same,” said Adrienne Kimmell, Acting President of NARAL Pro-Choice America, in a statement. “The harm of these draconian attacks cannot be overstated and they most acutely impact those who already face the greatest barriers to accessing care.”
While the Texas law allows people to file a lawsuit against someone who “aided and abetted” an abortion a maximum of four years after the abortion was performed, Florida’s bill is even more extreme and allows people to file a lawsuit six years after the procedure occurred. However, the Florida bill does allow for exceptions in the case of rape or incest, while the Texas law does not.
Both the Texas law and the Florida bill effectively eliminate all abortion access in their respective states, given that most people do not know they are pregnant at six weeks of pregnancy.
The introduction of Florida’s HB 167 comes the same week as the House of Representative’s vote on the Women’s Health Protection Act, a piece of legislation that would protect abortion access nationwide.
Today, the House will vote on the WHPA, which would protect people’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy and solidify the right to an abortion before viability in every state. It would also prevent states from imposing burdensome restrictions, like medically unnecessary waiting periods, for people seeking an abortion pre-viability.
“The need for legislative action to safeguard the legal right to abortion is becoming more urgent with every passing day,” Kimmell continued. “Congress must immediately pass the Women’s Health Protection Act so President Biden can sign it into law and protect the right to abortion care.”
Florida’s HB 167 also comes amid continued legal challenges to Texas’s SB 8. On Thursday, a coalition of abortion providers once again asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block the Texas abortion ban. The Supreme Court upheld SB 8 earlier this month, denying abortion providers’ previous request for the court to block the law.
“For 23 days, we’ve been forced to deny essential abortion care for the vast majority of patients who come to us,” said Amy Hagstrom Miller, president and CEO of Whole Woman’s Health Alliance, the organization leading the request for the Supreme Court to intervene in the SB 8 case.
“Most of those we’ve turned away told us they would not be able to make it out of Texas for care. I don’t know what happened to these patients after they left our clinic, but I can’t stop thinking about them. Forcing our staff to tell patients ‘no’ day after day is cruel. This chaos must come to an end, and that is why we are going back to the Supreme Court today.”
Sources: Washington Post 9/23/21; Florida House of Representatives 9/22/21; NARAL Pro-Choice America 9/22/21; CNN 9/23/21; NPR 9/24/21; Planned Parenthood 9/23/21