‘Scary’ Republican bill could lead to penalties for abortion, IVF providers

Image via Shutterstock/Chris Harris

By Giselle Balido

February 6, 2024

The bill presented to the state legislature proposes that fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses should be considered people with the same rights as those already born.

Florida Republican lawmakers have introduced an anti-abortion bill that could open the door to penalties not only for abortion providers, but even for providers of In vitro fertilization (IVF), according to an analysis published in the Huffington Post.

State Sen. Erin Grall and state Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka’s legislation (Senate Bill 476 and House Bill 651) seeks to impose a civil liability for the wrongful death of a fetus or “unborn child, as well as revise the definition of the term “survivors” to include the parents of an unborn child, allowing them to recover civil damages for the wrongful death of the fetus.

A pregnant woman cannot be sued under the legislation, but the bills do not include protections for physicians, prompting concerns that the bills could be used against abortion and IVF providers.

In an interview with HuffPost, Democratic state Rep. Anna Eskamani said the bill is intended “to provide civil rights to fetuses and potentially open up the pathway for there to be civil penalties for abortion providers.”

Eskamani and other opponents of the proposed law say that, in this context, the term “unborn child” has wider implications for reproductive rights. That is because in its 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that provided the right to abortion nationwide, the US Supreme Court majority ruled that “the word ‘person,’ as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn.”

RELATED: Video: ‘Very Chilling’: FL Democrat Tom Keen on DeSantis’ Pending 6-Week Abortion Ban

Some anti-abortion advocates, however, believe that fertilized eggs, embryos, and fetuses should be considered people with the same rights as those already born, and that the discarding of fertilized eggs is akin to murder.

Doctors usually only use one fertilized egg at a time during IVF, so if the patient becomes pregnant, they can decide to have their other fertilized eggs disposed of. Furthermore, not all fertilized eggs will lead to viable pregnancies, so they may also be discarded in these instances.

Many US states have some form of civil action for the wrongful death of a fetus, but 25 include a viability statute. This means that parents can only file a wrongful death suit on behalf of a fetus if it was viable or past 24 weeks. The Florida bill, however, does not define the gestational age of an “unborn child.”

RELATED: Study: 65,000 rape-caused pregnancies in states with abortion bans

For state Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book, the issue is intensely personal.

“As a woman who had to utilize assisted reproductive technology to have my children, it is frightening for me that there’s a piece of legislation moving through the process that would basically make it untenable to utilize this type of medicine to achieve creating a family. It’s really, really scary,” Book said to HuffPost.

Florida Republicans’ latest anti-abortion effort comes as the state Supreme Court continues to debate if it will ultimately approve Gov. Ron DeSantis’ 15-week abortion ban–a move that would usher in a six-week ban 30 days later.

Author

  • Giselle Balido

    Giselle is Floricua's political correspondent. She writes about the economy, environmental and social justice, and all things Latino. A published author, Giselle was born in Havana and grew up in New Jersey and Miami. She is passionate about equality, books, and cats.

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