A bill containing a slew of anti-abortion rights measures, including a highly controversial “fetal pain” provision, is on its way to a final vote on the House floor.
The bill, which is sponsored by state Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, has been criticized by women’s health advocates for being what they call an “omnibus anti-choice bill” because it contains several measures that would make it harder for women to obtain legal abortions in the state. The bill would also make it very difficult for providers to perform the legal service. Furthermore, the bill does not include protections for the mental and physical health of women who are pregnant. As of last week, the bill also includes a provision that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks.
The measure is similar to a handful of bills seen last year in legislatures across the country. These so-called “fetal pain” bills have been found to be “neither scientifically nor constitutionally sound” by researchers and operate under the premise that a fetus can feel pain as early as 20 weeks, outlawing abortions once a fetus is presumed to feel pain.
Current law protects a woman’s right to have an abortion up to at least 22-24 weeks. The most recent study on this issue, published in Current Biology, found that a fetus does not feel pain until 35 to 37 weeks of gestation.
Florida legislators tried to pass a “fetal pain” measure last year, but it did not make it out of committee.
Burgin’s bill is currently on second reading on the House floor. The Senate bill, which does not have “fetal pain” language, just passed through its first committee stop last week.