TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida's 15-week abortion ban took its first step toward becoming law Wednesday afternoon.
The divisive policy cleared its first committee hurdle in Tallahassee.
GOP lawmakers advanced HB 5 in a party-line vote.
Pro-lifers were ecstatic about Wednesday's decision.
"Certainly at 15 weeks, you would have to define what’s happening in the womb as life," Bob White with the Republican Liberty Caucus.
The bill prevents physicians from performing abortions after 15 weeks instead of the current law of 24 weeks.
There are exceptions for fatal fetal conditions but not rape or incest, which the sponsor says the bill provides enough time to address.
"We know more today than ever about the development of children in the womb," said Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach.
Grall said the bill is modeled after a Mississippi law currently under U.S. Supreme Court review, challenging the landmark Roe v. Wade decision.
She called her bill "an opportunity" to ready the state for change.
"We will be saving nearly 5,000 babies a year with this bill in place," Grall said.
Opponents offered fierce public comment, calling the policy a dangerous and "extreme" barrier to women's health care.
Democrats said without a Supreme Court reversal, the policy would be unconstitutional on day one and also come into conflict with Florida's privacy laws, causing another judicial hurdle.
"What are we doing right now, having this discussion? I believe it's a waste of your taxpayer dollars," Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D- Tampa.
Others warned the bill would disproportionally impact the poor, disabled or victims of sex assault who might not have the means or time to get an abortion.
"If you need an abortion, and you have the means to travel outside of the state, you will still be able to have an abortion. The rest of us won't be so lucky," Rep. Anna Eskamani, D-Orlando.
Both the House and Senate versions of the bill have two more stops before reaching their full chambers.
Leaders in the GOP majority and governor say they’re open to supporting it.