Last Thursday, students activists chanted “Let us speak,” after the committee chairperson, Rep. Bryan Avila – R-Miami Springs – cut off public comment to give committee members time to debate.
The bill was approved on a party-line vote. It states a “physician may not perform a termination of pregnancy if the physician determines the gestational age of the fetus is more than 15 weeks.”
Dr. Guy Benrubi, a Jacksonville-based obstetrician and gynecologist, said the rule is problematic for a number of reasons.
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“We have some women that only have three cycles a year,” said Benrubi. “How is this woman doing to know that she hasn’t had a cycle this month because she’s pregnant? And, you know, 15 weeks is three-and-a-half months. She may not have a period during the three-and-a-half month period.”
The ban includes an exception if the pregnant person’s health is at risk, but there are no exceptions for rape or incest.
The legislature has a GOP majority and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has already signaled his support for the ban. The bill has one final committee stop this week before a House vote.
Dr. Benrubi predicted if the bill becomes law, it would have the most impact on the state’s most vulnerable populations – including some who would have to drive up to 570 miles to the nearest clinic.
“Worst impact for women of color, for women who do not have a lot of resources, for rural women,” said Benrubi, “because its difficult to get to providers. There are not that many providers in the state, and there are a lot of counties that have absolutely no providers.”
“Like all medical matters, decisions regarding reproductive medical care should be made between a patient and their health care provider – not lawmakers.”
The bill’s next hearing is Wednesday in the Health and Human Services Committee.
Support for this reporting was provided by the Carnegie Corporation of New York.