TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WTXL) — It was another win for Florida's controversial 15-week abortion ban.
A GOP-controlled House panel approved the measure for final consideration in the lower chamber. It's now just steps from the governor's desk.
HB 5 sponsor, Rep. Erin Grall, R-Vero Beach, again argued the move from 24 to 15 weeks was humane. The bill makes exceptions only for fatal fetal issues — not rape or incest.
"The state's interest in protecting unborn life is clearly compelling at 15 weeks when the child has fully taken the human form," Grall said. "There is no right to an abortion in the federal constitution or the state constitution. There is a right to life."
While there was some public support from religious groups, most of the testimony was impassioned opposition. More than 100 people filled out forms to speak.
The committee chair, Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland, trimmed comments to 45 seconds to accommodate the large crowd. Law enforcement was on hand in case tensions overflowed.
Many opponents considered HB 5 a "dangerous" and "extreme" restriction on women's health care. Others noted it would likely be on hold, day one, and stay that way at least until the U.S. Supreme Court finished reviewing a similar Mississippi law.
“Abortion is health care, and we have to get away from making it this political football," said Rep. Kelly Skidmore, D-Boca Raton.
Democrats weren't surprised by the outcome. Despite another attempt to water the policy down, they lacked the votes needed to kill or amend the bill. Members urged voters to take note.
"Look at the things that are being passed this year," said Rep. Felicia Simone Robinson, D-Miami Gardens. "Yes, we don't have the numbers, but please let that motivate and encourage you to get out and vote."
HB 5 now heads to the House floor for final discussion and debate in the coming weeks. Senators would get it next, as they also near approval of a similar version.