TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Republican leaders are signaling they’re open to a complete ban on abortions next year if the Supreme Court overturns the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.
Incoming state Senate and House leaders this week told POLITICO they aren’t immediately ready to pursue a strict ban on abortions but will follow the will of the GOP-led Legislature, which already voted to ban abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy. That ban is the strictest in state history.
“There’s always a chance. Right now we have a Republican majority,” incoming Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo said in an interview. “We give the opportunity for a bill to be heard in committee and then see what happens.”
Her comments come as an anti-abortion Republican lawmaker, state Rep. Webster Barnaby (R-Deltona), said on Tuesday while attending an anti-abortion rally at the Capitol in Tallahassee that he intends to sponsor a “comprehensive” measure that would ban all abortions in Florida. Barnaby had already sponsored a Texas-style six-week ban during this year’s legislative session but that bill went nowhere.
Barnaby said in an interview that he believes a bill banning all abortions in Florida has the votes necessary to be approved by the full House, though he had few details about what exactly the measure would do, such as whether there would be exemptions for victims of rape.
“We now have the political will to get things done that nine months ago we may not have gotten done,” Barnaby said. “And I believe that we now have the will and we have the votes in the House to pass legislation that will ban abortion in the great state of Florida for life.”
The GOP lawmakers’ comments indicate that the fight over abortion rights in Florida is just beginning. This year Florida, the third most populous state in the country, already approved a ban on abortions after 15 weeks that provides no exemptions for rape, incest or human trafficking. But with the Supreme Court likely to overturn federal abortion protections, Republican lawmakers appear to be ready to pursue further restrictions.
Incoming House Speaker Paul Renner said it’s up to the 160-member state Legislature to decide whether to enact a full ban on abortions in the state. But Renner, who said he is “unequivocally pro-life,” added that the Supreme Court’s decision on Roe will clearly give the anti-abortion movement momentum.
“What we’re supposed to do in a representative democracy is work through it and find a landing spot,” Renner said. “I represent the same number of people that my colleagues in other districts represent, who are going to have their voices heard. That’s the difference with Roe — if you disagreed with the ruling your voice was silent.”
Barnaby discussed his plan to file a bill on an all-out abortion ban after speaking Tuesday at a small anti-abortion rally led by the Tallahassee-based Florida Voice for the Unborn. The 50-or-so demonstrators who turned out for the event also tried to meet with six Republican lawmakers who were already at the Capitol for a special legislative session to address increasing property insurance costs statewide, though not all were available due to the ongoing legislative work.
Voice for the Unborn Founder and Executive Director Andrew Shirvell, who previously urged Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to push the Legislature to approve an all-out ban on abortions during this week’s special session, said after meeting with a half-dozen lawmakers that his visit with state Rep. Mike Beltran (R-Lithia) was “absolutely terrific” but didn’t comment further on any others. Beltran previously ran as a conservative who wanted to root out government waste.
“If we had all of our legislators like that, we would ban abortion tomorrow,” Shirvell said. “We need more Mike Beltrans in the Legislature.”
There are already looming legal challenges to Florida’s 15-week abortion ban, which is set to go into effect on July 1. Pro-abortion rights groups such as Planned Parenthood and the ACLU have vowed to sue over the new law, with the first case expected to be filed in the next week. The groups have indicated they will argue Florida’s ban on abortion after 15 weeks violates the decades-old privacy clause in the state Constitution that prohibits government intrusion on people’s lives.
Any such challenge, however, may not be well-received by the Florida Supreme Court, which leans conservative.
Renner said the state’s privacy clause was not added to the Constitution to protect abortion rights, even though the Florida Supreme Court cited it more than 20 years ago when it struck down a law requiring minors to get parental consent when seeking abortions.
“I would say that that was intended and passed for informational privacy, and not for abortion,” Renner said.