The XX Factor

Florida Lawmakers Want to Make Abortion a Felony, Advance Bill Citing “The Creator”

An examination room at a women’s reproductive health center that provides abortions in a city in South Florida.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For a brief, shining moment on Monday, sanity prevailed on the issue of abortion when the Supreme Court upheld a lower court’s ruling that North Dakota’s “fetal heartbeat” law, which would ban abortion at the sixth week of pregnancy, is unconstitutional. On Tuesday, America returned to normal as the Florida House of Representatives moved forward with a bevy of anti-abortion legislation. One of the bills would classify abortion as a first-degree felony—a move so extreme that even its author is clearly under no illusions about getting away with it.

That last bill, HB 865, cleared a criminal justice panel by an 8-3 vote on Monday, according to the Miami Herald. It reads in part:

The Legislature finds that all human life comes from the Creator, has an inherent value that cannot be quantified by man, and begins at the earliest biological development of a fertilized human egg.

The Legislature finds that the establishment of viability as the point at which the state may restrict abortions, as well as the ‘undue burden’ standard of Planned Parenthood of Southern Pennsylvania v. Casey… is arbitrary and provides inadequate guidance for this state to enact meaningful protections for unborn human life.

The Legislature urges the United States Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade … and Planned Parenthood of Southern Pennsylvania v. Casey.

This raises some questions, such as “Is voting on bills that flout decades of Supreme Court precedent a good use of the Florida legislature’s time?” and “Has anyone ever talked to the bill’s author, Rep. Charles Van Zant, about the separation of church and state?” As so often happens when the pageantry of reproductive politics meets the neutrality of newspaper style, the advancement of HB 865 produced a moment of unintentional comedy in the pages of the Herald, which could only observe, “It’s likely that Van Zant’s proposal, if passed by the Legislature, would lead to lawsuits citing the Supreme Court’s 1973 ruling in Roe vs. Wade.” Yes, yes it is.

Unfortunately, the other bills that Florida’s legislature is considering are far less outlandish, and far more worrisome. One of them, HB 233, would require abortion clinics to meet the standards for ambulatory surgical centers, or perhaps to exceed them, even though the costly measures necessary for clinics to comply wouldn’t improve the already-safe practice of abortion. The other bill, HB 1411, also includes “TRAP measures” aimed at shutting down clinics (one example: the requirement that doctors have formalized admitting privileges at local hospitals). Both bills share elements with the Texas abortion law that the Supreme Court will consider this year—giving abortion-rights supporters yet another reason to watch that case.