‘Florida Heartbeat Act’ filed: Here’s what the abortion bill means

Florida House of Representatives (Special to WJXT)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A bill regarding abortion in Florida titled the “Florida Heartbeat Act” was filed by Florida Representative Webster Barnaby on Wednesday morning.

The bill requires a physician to conduct a test for, and inform a woman seeking abortion of, the presence of detectable fetal heartbeat. It also prohibits physicians from performing or inducing abortion if a fetal heartbeat is detected, or, if a physician fails to conduct a test to detect fetal heartbeat.

The bill also provides exceptions.

The bill provides exceptions for rape, incest, domestic violence, human trafficking, or a condition that’s threatening to the mother. However, those seeking an abortion due to said exceptions require documentation, such as a restraining order, medical record, or court order, to legally do so.

The bill also authorizes private civil cause of action for certain violations, and provides for civil remedies and damages.

The act states, “... a fetal heartbeat is a key medical predictor that an unborn child will reach live birth, and cardiac activity begins at a biologically identifiable moment in time, normally when the fetal heart is formed in the gestational sac ... the State of Florida has a compelling interest from the outset of a woman’s pregnancy in protecting the health of the woman and the life of the unborn child, and in order to make an informed choice about whether to continue her pregnancy, the pregnant woman has a compelling interest in knowing the likelihood of her unborn child surviving to full-term birth based upon the presence of cardiac activity.”

The bill also altered the definition of “abortion” in the state.

According to the act, “abortion” means the termination of human pregnancy with an intention other than to produce a live birth or to remove a dead unborn child.

Previously, the definition concluded with “to remove a dead fetus” rather than “to remove a dead unborn child.” This is a deliberate change noted throughout the act. “Unborn child” has replaced the term “dead fetus.”

If voted into law, the bill goes into effect on July 1, 2022.