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Florida GOP rejects rape exception in 15-week abortion ban

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Posted at 3:14 PM, Feb 05, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-05 16:14:13-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Republicans on Wednesday rejected a move to create exemptions for rape, incest and human trafficking in their proposal to ban abortions after 15 weeks, advancing the bill to tighten access to the procedure.

The Senate Health Policy Committee, which is controlled by Republicans, blocked the amendment from Democratic Sen. Lauren Book and then passed the bill on a party lines vote.

“We have to give these survivors a little grace,” Book said before her amendment failed. “If a girl or a woman does not want to carry a pregnancy to term because she did not consent to being raped, none of the members of this committee should be able to deny her a safe a legal abortion because she needed more time.”

Sen. Kelli Stargel, a Republican who sponsored the bill, noted that her proposal was not an all-out ban on abortion and said allowing such exemptions would give criminals more room to hide sexual crimes.

“I think this amendment does nothing to solve the problems that we all agree are awful — rape, human trafficking, incest — and I will partner with you to fight these crimes and I will partner with you to take the people who are doing that to these children to the furthest extent of the law,” she said. “But I don’t think allowing those individuals to continue to hide their crimes by forcing the abortions or allowing those abortions are going to solve that problem.”

The proposal in Florida comes as Republicans in states across the country have introduced legislation to limit access to abortion, much of it coming as the U.S. Supreme Court is weighing a major rollback of abortion rights and a potential overruling of the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.

West Virginia is considering 15-week abortion ban similar to a Mississippi law currently under review by the Supreme Court and Republicans in other states are modeling legislation after a law in Texas which effectively banned abortions after six weeks.

The Florida 15-week ban proposal, which has been introduced in both the GOP-controlled House and Senate, contains exceptions if the abortion is necessary to save a mother’s life, prevent serious injury to the mother or if the fetus has a fatal abnormality. Both bills are still in the committee stage.

Florida currently allows abortions up to 24 weeks.

Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican, has signaled early support for the measure, saying his office welcomes the bills.