House Bill 5, the proposed 15-week abortion ban that rocked the abortion rights movement, continues to make its way through the Florida legislature, despite lawmakers and Democratic activists who fight against the law.
People gathered at the House Health and Human Services Committee meeting on Thursday for the latest round of House committee hearings on HB 5. The GOP-controlled committee voted for the ban, with a 14-7 vote.
Some lawmakers wore masks that said “save our bodies,” signaling they opposed the ban. Others started to sing. And others were angry that they couldn’t speak longer during public testimony.
Democratic State Rep. Michele Rayner of St. Petersburg filed an amendment to remove all abortion language from the bill, but it failed.
“This amendment undermines the intent of this legislation,” said Republican Representative Tyler Sirois, who represents part of Brevard County. He said he thinks 15 weeks is a reasonable bill.
Republican Rep. William Robinson Jr., who represents parts of Manatee and Sarasota counties, urged the committee to vote no to Rayner’s amendment.
Robinson mentioned he would like to see Florida join Mississippi, which has a 15-week abortion ban and is under review by the US Supreme Court.
Rayner then fired back at Sirois in his closing statement on the amendment. saying, “I don’t know how this amendment undermines this legislation if the intent of this legislation is to protect the people of Florida.”
The amendment failed 14 to 7.
When it came time to allow people to speak on the bill, Chair Colleen Burton announced that everyone would have 30 seconds to speak due to the large number of people wishing to testify.
Representative for Democratic Ranking Member Tracie Davis, who represents part of Duval County, pleaded to give people at least a minute to speak. She also announced that Democrats on the committee give up their time for debate and questions to allow more time for speakers.
“This is the third and final committee hearing for HB 5. We should allow them more than 30 seconds. I ask aloud that the public testimonies be extended…. I feel like their voices have been muffled,” Davis said.
President Burton reasoned with the Democrats and allowed 45 seconds instead of 30.
Dr. John Littell, a family doctor from Ocala, approached the committee with a heart monitor, saying “These 15 weeks of pregnancy are amazing and we shouldn’t take that away from a mother.”
A 20-week-pregnant woman came and begged the committee to approve the bill, saying, “These babies are humans at this point – every part of a baby is already there.
Another supporter of the bill compared the 15-week abortion ban to the death of George Floyd, which ruffled the feathers of members of the public and some committee lawmakers.
A 4th year medical student fired back and said before she was told to leave the podium: ‘Keep the name of George Floyd out of your mouth when discussing the rights of marginalized people’, referring to the previous speaker.
Several people in the audience, including Rep. Rayner, snapped their fingers in support of the medical student’s statement.
After that, Burton said that clapping and clapping were not allowed during the meeting.
Several people tried to read testimonies on behalf of another person, which President Burton did not authorize.
“You can’t imagine that you can email the letters,” Burton said.
A woman approached the committee saying, “I won’t say my name because you all don’t care what we have to say.”
She then looked back and started a chant – “Rise up, strike back” – most of the people in the audience joined in the chant. A sergeant escorted the woman.
The next step will be a full house. But the Florida Senate also reportedly approved a 15-week ban.