Florida Republicans delay ‘fetal personhood’ bill after Alabama IVF ruling

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By Giselle Balido

February 28, 2024

A Florida Senate committee announced Monday that it is postponing a Republican bill that would give fetuses civil rights as children. But opponents warn that the delay may only be temporary.

Florida lawmakers have postponed a bill that would give fetuses civil rights after a court ruling in Alabama halted in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment at several clinics across the state.

The decision came after Alabama’s state supreme court ruled earlier this month that embryos created through IVF are considered “extrauterine children,” a move that would open the door for IVF patients to sue a clinic for the “wrongful death” of embryos that were accidentally destroyed.

At issue in Florida is Senate Bill 476, which would define a fetus as an “unborn child” with the same rights as children. 

The bill, opponents say, would make abortion providers and others who offer abortion care for pregnant women liable in potential civil lawsuits. The bill would also allow parents to collect financial damages in the case of wrongful death, the Tampa Bay Times reported.

“I think it is important to stress that this legislation, though branded as focused on ‘wrongful death’, is really about banning abortion, and is really about creating a slippery slope to services like IVF also being restricted in the state,” Democratic Rep. Anna V. Eskamani said during a press call this week alongside Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried and other Democratic state lawmakers. 

RELATED: Florida abortion rights amendment gets enough signatures for 2024 ballot

In response to the Alabama ruling and the furious nationwide backlash it generated, a Florida Senate committee announced Monday that it would postpone further consideration of the proposal, which had been approved by several state committees. Republican state Sen. Erin Grall, the sponsor of SB 476, said in a statement that she requested the legislation be shelved for now. 

“Although I have worked diligently to respond to questions and concerns, I understand there is still work that needs to be done,” Grall said in a statement. “It is important we get the policy right with an issue of this significance.”

Additionally, the Senate Rules Committee canceled a hearing for a companion bill that had been scheduled for Monday, making it unlikely that the bill will be passed in the current legislative session, which ends on March 8

RELATED: Not just abortion: IVF ruling next phase in the right’s war on reproductive freedom

Florida Democratic Party Chair Nikki Fried, however, said during the press call that it was the Alabama ruling—not concern that IVF could be included in the bill—that forced Republicans to shelve the proposal for now. For this reason, opponents of the bill are warning Floridians that a postponement doesn’t mean that the proposed measure could not be resurrected at some point. 

“In order for this bill to continue, there would have to be a special call in the Senate for another committee meeting. But I will tell you that we will be prepared if it does,” Rep. Eskamani said. “We will be fighting to ensure that IVF is protected, and we will do whatever we need to do to push back these extreme attacks on our freedoms.”

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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