This past week, Representative Mike Hill of Pensacola has gained attention for his aggressively conservative legislation. He finished last year with a controversial bill that in part protected confederate monuments and began started this year with a bill that would undo major portions of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Act which passed last year under pressure by parents and students affected by the Parkland shooting. But it’s his abortion bill that may be the most haphazard.
In addition to banning abortions past the heartbeat, Hill’s abortion bill would replace the legal use of the word “fetus” with the phrase “unborn human being.” If the law is passed, it will effectively ban all abortions after six weeks except in cases in which mother’s life or physical well-being are deemed to be in danger by two physicians. There are also provisions in cases of rape or incest. In those rare cases, doctors would be required to tell mothers the fetus’s chance of survival and have her listen to the fetal heartbeat unless she signs a form indicating that she does not want to hear it.
Florida would not be the first state to wrestle with such legislation. Iowa passed a similar bill that would have gone into effect this past summer had a judge there not blocked. Lawyers with ACLU there are suing the legislature to make sure the bill does not passed. Ohio also passed a heartbeat bill but it went too far for outgoing Gov. John Kasich. Kasich, a conservative, pro-life Republican, vetoed the bill because he thought it would be struck down as unconstitutional. He instead signed bill banning abortions at 20 weeks; a bill which is still one of the most restrictive abortion laws in the country. The Senate there tried to override Kasich’s veto but failed when one lone Republican voted against it.
The near-victories of the heartbeat bill in Republican majority states indicates that pro-life politicians are more than willing to take aggressive action against abortion and that they have the votes to do, but it doesn’t matter. They can only go so far as the Supreme Court’s ruling allows them and thus, its unlikely that Florida would be able to put a heartbeat bill into action even if they passed it.
The bill’s fate in Florida could mean the fate of similar bills nationwide. Florida is a bellweather for American politics. If the heartbeat bill passes here, it may give it new life and other pro-life politicians throughout the country may feel encouraged to try one in their state. If it fails, they may give up on it and turn to other abortion restrictions. We’ll have to wait and see when the legislative session begins in March.