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Democrats try, fail to amend Senate abortion-ban bill ahead of vote Monday

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Norine Dworkin

Editor in Chief

Monday, April 3, 2023


Sen. Geraldine Thompson argues against the six-week abortion ban during a Fiscal Policy Committee meeting. Her amendment to include "imminent danger of domestic violence" as an exception to the ban during Senate debate was voted down along party lines.

Despite efforts by Democratic lawmakers to amend a bill that would ban abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, Republicans, who dominate the Florida Senate, voted down every single one of the Democrats’ 15 amendments ahead of an expected full floor vote Monday.

Democrat Sen. Geraldine Thompson, who represents Winter Garden, Ocoee and Oakland, tried to get domestic violence added to the short list of exceptions to SB 300. Her amendment would have permitted an abortion up to 15 weeks provided documentation, such as restraining orders, police reports, medical records or other evidence, that a woman was in “imminent danger of domestic violence,” was produced at the time of the abortion. 

“Women who are in imminent danger of domestic violence during pregnancy include those who have partners who are  angry that they are pregnant or they question whether they are the father," Thompson said in a statement emailed to VoxPopuli. "Additionally, some women are impregnated by partners who tampered with methods of birth control including hiding pills and deliberately puncturing condoms. These men want to bind the women to them and maintain their power over them.  There should be an exception for these women.”

Thompson’s amendment failed 28 to 12 on a party -line vote.

Current law, passed last year, bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy with no exceptions for rape, incest, mother's medical emergency or fatal fetal abnormality. With the six-week ban under consideration, exceptions for rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormality and to save a mother’s life and avoid medical emergencies that would cause irreparable physical harm are permitted — but only up until 15 weeks and only with documentation for rape claims and two doctors signing off on medical emergencies.

Democrat Sen. Lori Berman of Palm Beach County unsuccessfully tried to get psychological harm of an unwanted pregnancy added to the list of exceptions in the six-week ban, to no avail.

Other proposed Democratic amendments that failed would have allowed for religious support for abortion, beginning child support payments from conception and filing civil lawsuits for compensatory damages against men who impregnate those who don't want to be pregnant for the “emotional distress and pain and suffering sustained by the woman as a result of carrying the unwanted pregnancy due to her lack of access to abortion care."

Two Republican-sponsored amendments did pass. One proposed by Sen. Erin Grall of Vero Beach, sponsor of the six-week ban, changed the bill’s name from “Pregnancy and Parenting Support” to “Heartbeat Protection Act.”

Democrats pushed back on that amendment because they questioned the science. What’s detected at that very early stage of embryonic development is not a true fetal heartbeat but “a group of cells with electrical activity,” Jennifer Kerns, an ob-gyn at UC San Francisco and director of research in obstetrics and gynecology at Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, told Wired magazine in 2019. “We are in no way talking about any kind of cardiovascular system.”

Senate Democratic Leader Lauren Book of Plantation instead offered her own title suggestion for the bill: “Electrical Activity that can be Manipulated to Sound like a Heartbeat through Ultrasound Protection at the Expense of Pregnant People’s Health and Wellbeing Act.” It did not pass.

The second Republican amendment that was accepted was proposed by Sen. Alexis Calatayud, a Republican from Miami-Dade County. It would add an exception for an abortion up to 15 weeks when a pregnancy is the result of human trafficking. Book had proposed the human trafficking amendment in the Senate Health Policy Committee, but it was voted down by the committee’s Republican majority, according to the Florida Phoenix.

Calatayud, who is pro-life, is the only Republican senator who voted against the six-week ban, fulfilling a promise she made to constituents that she would support the current 15-week ban and would work to get exceptions for rape and incest included, the Florida Phoenix reported.

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