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Abortion debate stirs emotions in House

Supporters of abortion access march in front of the Florida Capitol Building on Wednesday. Florida's House passed a bill limiting many abortions in the state.
Mark Wallheiser
/
Getty Images
Supporters of abortion access march in front of the Florida Capitol Building on Wednesday. Florida's House passed a bill limiting many abortions in the state.

A protracted House debate that ran into the wee hours Thursday morning put on display why a measure that would prohibit doctors from performing after 15 weeks of pregnancy is one of the 2022 legislative session’s most contentious proposals.

Numerous lawmakers shared intimate stories and several House members discussed their personal experiences with abortion, during an at-times emotionally charged debate that lasted six hours.

Rep. Dana Trabulsy, R-Fort Pierce, told her colleagues that she is a survivor of rape and had an abortion in the past, arguing that her experience factored into her support of the bill.

“I was always pro-life, until I had a choice. And then I had a choice, and I selfishly made the choice to have an abortion. Not because something was wrong with my baby, not for any other reason than it just wasn’t convenient for me. It didn’t fit my narrative. It didn’t fit my lifestyle. I didn’t want a baby, so I had an abortion. It’s something that I have regretted every day since,” Trabulsy said.

House Democrats decried the measure (HB 5), which does not include an exception for victims of rape or incest. The House on Tuesday rejected more than a dozen proposed changes to the bill filed by Democrats, including one that would have added an exemption in such instances.

Rep. Kristen Arrington, D-Kissimmee, said she is a survivor of rape and criticized Republicans for refusing to accept the proposed changes.

“We heard that an exception for an abortion wasn’t needed for rape or incest because of the low amount of abortions that were performed on those that were victims,” Arrington said. “I know that the number of 126 abortions performed due to rape or incest in 2021 isn’t accurate, because victims aren’t honest about being raped, because of the shame and the stigmatism that surrounds it. When we pass legislation like this, it validates that perception.”

Ultimately, the Republican-dominated House approved the measure (HB 5) in a 78-39 vote along almost straight party lines. Rep. Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, crossed party lines to vote against the measure, while Rep. James Bush, D-Miami, voted for it.

All eyes are now on the Senate, which could pass the measure as early as next week.

The Senate Appropriations Committee likely will take up the House bill Monday, Feb. 21. The committee’s chairwoman, Lakeland Republican Kelli Stargel, is the sponsor of a Senate version (SB 146) of the bill.

Gov. Ron DeSantis last month suggested that he would sign the measure if it lands on his desk, saying he finds the 15-week restriction on abortion “reasonable.”

News Service of Florida