Proposed law would make ‘disability abortions’ illegal in Florida

Published: Feb. 26, 2021 at 5:36 PM CST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - New legislation filed at the state Capitol would ban so-called ‘disability abortions’, making it illegal to terminate a pregnancy where a child is likely to be born mentally or physically impaired. Opponents argue it is blatantly unconstitutional.

In the U.S., 65 percent of fetuses diagnosed with down syndrome are terminated. In countries like Iceland and Denmark, it’s nearly 100 percent.

Ryan Sprague runs PHI Center, a pregnancy information and help center, in the state’s capital. For Sprague, it’s a personal issue. His oldest son, who just turned 17, has cerebral palsy.

“I don’t think it says a good thing for our society if we’re choosing who gets to live and who doesn’t get to live based on a quality of life issue that we determine is unworthy of life,” Sprague said.

But Planned Parenthood says legislation aimed at banning so-called ‘disability abortions’ goes too far.

Laura Goodhue with Planned Parenthood of South, East, and North Florida says her main concern with legislation like this is the state or politicians getting involved in something personal.

“Families that are facing these very deeply personal decisions don’t want the State of Florida or politicians interfering. And it should really be decisions that are made between doctors and pregnant people themselves,” Goodhue said.

Pro-choice advocates say the legislation is yet another attempt to bring a case before the U.S. Supreme Court and overturn Roe V. Wade.

“Roe V. Wade has been the law of the land for 48 years, but opponents to safe and legal abortion are not lacking in Florida,” Goodhue said.

Even Sprague doubts the legislation would hold up in court, but he says the fact it was filed at all sends a strong message.

“I think it is good for us to protect those who are in most need of protection,” Sprague said.

Last year the disability abortion legislation didn’t get a hearing. It’s yet to be seen if the Legislature has a greater appetite to take on such a controversial topic this year.

The legislation would not make a mother criminally liable for having a disability abortion, but the physician would face a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine.