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New bill would ban abortions in Florida once a heartbeat is detected

The bill would ban abortions around six weeks gestation -- before some women even know they're pregnant.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A new bill filed in the Florida legislature proposes to ban abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected.

HB 235, filed by Republican Rep. Mike Hill of Pensacola, would make it a third-degree felony to perform abortions "when a fetal heartbeat is detected." The bill also redefines a fetus as an "unborn human being" categorized as such "from fertilization until live birth."

The bill proposes that "no termination of pregnancy shall be performed on any woman if the physician determines that...the unborn human being has achieved viability or has a detectable fetal heartbeat."

Abortions up to 24 weeks are currently allowed in the state of Florida.

“I feel it is my obligation, it is my duty, to protect life liberty and the pursuit of happiness, including those who are unborn," Rep. Hill said.

The bill would also prohibit the state government and local governments from giving funds to organizations that own or operate clinics that perform abortions. Exceptions would be clinics that only perform abortions on fetuses that are conceived through rape or incest or are medically necessary to save the life of the woman.

State Rep. Anna V. Eskamani of Pensacola responded to HB 235 saying decisions about a woman's pregnancy should be "left between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her faith -- not politicians."

Eskamani is the former senior director of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Southwest Central Florida. She was recently elected as a state representative.

"Time and time again we see politicians in Florida and across the country shame women with legislation that does nothing to improve our health and wellbeing, and everything to do with a politically-motivated and extreme anti-reproductive health care agenda," she said in a statement. "If our legislative body truly cares about reducing the rate of abortion in this state, then we will focus our attention on access to contraception and comprehensive sexual health education, not bills like HB235.”

Similar "heartbeat bills" have been introduced in other states, including Kentucky, Iowa and Ohio. Ohio's "heartbeat bill" failed to become law after Gov. John Kasich vetoed it and the state Senate failed to override his veto.

Ohio's bill would have banned abortion once a heartbeat is detected and would prohibit abortions using a common surgical procedure, the Dayton Daily News reported.

The American Civil Liberties Union in Kentucky said the state's proposed heartbeat bill would "prohibit most abortions in Kentucky and would immediately trigger a legal challenge," the Associated Press reported.

The AP said Kentucky's bill is at odds with the legal standard set by 1973's Roe v. Wade ruling. The Supreme Court case prohibits states from banning abortions before viability.

In Iowa, another heartbeat bill was temporarily blocked while a judge determines its constitutionality. North Dakota's heartbeat bill was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2016. The bill would have banned abortions as early as six weeks and would have been one of the strictest in the country.

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