Months after State Representative Webster Barnaby (R-Deltona) filed an anti-abortion bill (HB 167) in September, which would ban the procedure after a fetal heartbeat, Democrats in the Florida legislature filed bills in both the House and Senate that supports abortion rights.

State Representative Ben Diamond (D-St. Petersburg) and State Senator Lori Berman (D-Lantana) filed HB 709 and SB 1036, respectively, known as “Reproductive Health Care Rights.”

As the bills state, “The Legislature finds that comprehensive reproductive health care is a fundamental component of every person’s health, privacy, and equality.”

It also says, “Each person has the fundamental rights to choose or refuse contraception or sterilization and to choose to carry a pregnancy to term, to give birth to a child, or to have an abortion.”

In addition to establishing women’s right to have an abortion, the two bills also include language that would allow legal action against any person or entity from blocking a woman from having an abortion.

The bills state, “A person whose rights have been impaired or deprived in violation of this section may file an action in circuit court for injunctive or other equitable relief and is entitled to recover damages and reasonable attorney fees and costs.”

In contrast, HB 167, which is known as the “Florida Heartbeat Act,” would require a physician to conduct tests for, and inform a woman seeking an abortion of, the presence of a detectable fetal heartbeat. In the case that there is a heartbeat detected or that a physician fails to conduct a test to detect a fetal heartbeat, the bill “prohibits a physician from knowingly performing or inducing an abortion.”

“I think it’s really important that we take proactive steps to make sure women’s reproductive rights are protected,” Berman said, according to a report by Florida Politics. She added, “The bill [SB 1036] says that your reproductive rights are your health, privacy and equality.

While Berman notes the filing of the HB 709 and SB 1036 is not in response to HB 167, but rather in response to current Supreme Court cases addressing abortion laws in Texas and Mississippi. She does however, express her belief that any anti-abortion law in Florida would be heavily challenged by the state’s right to privacy that she argues is stronger than in the U.S. Constitution.

However, according to the Executive Director of the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Laura Goodhue, even with a strong history of applying Florida’s strict privacy policy to abortion, she believes that Governor DeSantis appointing more conservative Supreme Court Justices in Florida will lead to the courts shying away from using the policy when discussing abortion.

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Casey Owens is a contributing writer for The Florida Capital Star. Follow him on Twitter at @cowensreports. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Lori Berman” by Lori Berman. Photo “Ben Diamond” by Ben Diamond. Background Photo “Florida Capitol” by DXR. CC BY-SA 4.0.