Republican Bill Would Define a Fetus as a Person, Hurt Dems' Abortion Amendment Chances

Republican Bill Would Define a Fetus as a Person, Hurt Dems' Abortion Amendment Chances

New language in a Florida bill defines "fetal personhood" at conception, potentially hurting Dems' chances at getting abortion on the ballot

Liv Caputo
Liv Caputo
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February 16, 2024

TALLAHASSEE, FL—Abortion rights advocates are up in arms over new bill language establishing an "unborn child" as a person at conception. If passed, this language could negatively impact Democrats' efforts to get abortion on the ballot in November.

Republican Sen. Erin Grall, who sponsored Florida's six-week abortion ban last session, amended SB 476 this week to establish "fetal personhood" at the moment of conception. This would codify into law that a fetus—at any point in development—is a person with guaranteed rights. The bill itself is designed to expand Florida's Wrongful Death Act to unborn children, allowing parents to collect civil damages for the wrongful death of their child in utero.

“SB 476 is a dangerous bill that opens the door for fetal personhood -- legally designating a fetus as a person with rights, including the right to life, from the moment of conception. Fetal personhood diminishes the rights of women and mothers, putting abortion healthcare and reproductive medicine like IVF at risk," Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book said in a statement Friday morning.

As Florida's Supreme Court is currently deciding the fate of both a 15-week abortion ban and Democrats' efforts to amend the state Constitution to enshrine abortion rights, Grall's definition of "personhood" could tip the scales in the favor of pro-life activists.

Sen. Lauren Book
Sen. Lauren Book

"Florida’s very own Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has invoked the concept of fetal personhood as they decide the fate of Florida’s abortion ban and the Amendment 4 abortion ballot language. This bill may become the vehicle through which he makes that concept our reality, with far-reaching consequences," Book continued. "We cannot allow personhood to become Florida law.”

Sen. Grall denies that her bill has anything to do with current abortion movements throughout the state, holding that its only purpose is to provide parents compensation for wrongful deaths of their future children.

“I understand that I have been on the frontlines of the abortion debate in my time of service. It’s not something I run away from. I think all of you know that. When this statute is read in its entirety, which I know our bills don’t always give us that opportunity either, it is clear that this is about a wrongful act, negligence, default, or breach that leads to the event,” Grall said in Thursday's Senate Fiscal Policy Committee.

The Florida Supreme Court is set to decide on the "Amendment to Limit Government Interference with Abortion”, which would protect Floridians' right to an abortion, by April 1.

The Court still must decide on the state's 15-week abortion ban, passed in 2022. If it is ruled constitutional, Sen. Grall's six-week ban will automatically go into effect.

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Liv Caputo

Liv Caputo

Livia Caputo is a senior at Florida State University, working on a major in Criminology, and a triple minor in Psychology, Communications, and German. She has been working on a journalism career for the past year, and hopes to become a successful reporter after graduation. Her work has been cited in Fox News, the New York Post, and the Daily Mail

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