Florida for Life Act 2016 (HB 865)
This law was last updated on Jun 28, 2016
HB 865 is an omnibus bill containing multiple abortion restrictions including medication and surgical abortion ban; “termination of pregnancy” ban (defined below); informed consent and ultrasound requirements; fetal research ban; insurance coverage ban and related provisions. The bill also establishes that life begins at conception.
HB 865 would amend Florida’s law regarding termination of pregnancies during viability (Fla. Stat. § 390.01112) to make minor technical changes. (See Section 4.)
The bill would ban “induced abortion” (i.e., medical or surgical abortion) except as provided for in Fla. Stat. § 390.01112. In addition, the bill would prohibit operating abortion clinics and services for the purposes of providing induced abortion services.
The bill would ban “termination of pregnancy” (defined as “the termination of a human pregnancy under circumstances not prohibited by this chapter”) unless certain requirements are met, including:
- Two physicians certify in writing that, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the termination of a pregnancy is necessary to prevent the death of the patient;
- Two physicians certify in writing to the fact that, to a reasonable degree of medical certainty, the termination of a pregnancy is necessary because to continue the pregnancy would unreasonably reduce the likelihood of successful treatment of a life-threatening disease of the patient; or
- The attending physician certifies in writing that a medical emergency existed and another doctor was not available for consultation prior to termination of the pregnancy. The medical condition must be “clearly described.”
The bill would prohibit anyone not a physician from performing an abortion.
A violation of the above provisions of this bill would constitute a felony, and the maximum penalty would be life in prison.
The bill states that a physician may not perform an abortion without the voluntary and written informed consent of the patient, court-appointed guardian of a mentally-incompetent patient, or a minor’s parent or legal guardian. The physician must personally inform the patient or the patient’s guardian of the following:
- The nature and risks of undergoing or not undergoing the proposed procedure;
- The probable gestational age of the fetus, verified by an ultrasound;
- The medical risks to the patient and fetus of carrying the pregnancy to term.
The person performing the ultrasound must offer the patient the opportunity to view and receive a description of the images. The pregnant woman may decline to view the images or hear a description.
The bill states that a physician performing an abortion must provide to patients or their guardians printed materials prepared by the Florida Department of Health which include:
- An accurate estimate of the stage of biological development, gestational age, length, weight, and viability of the unborn human person;
- A list of agencies that offer alternatives to terminating the pregnancy; and
- Detailed information on the availability of medical assistance benefits for prenatal care, childbirth, and neonatal care.
If a medical emergency exists and the physician cannot comply with the informed consent requirements, the bill states that the attending physician may terminate the pregnancy if she or he has obtained a corroborating physician’s written opinion attesting to the medical necessity for the abortion. If a second physician is not available, the abortion may proceed, but the physician must document all reasons for the medical emergency and clearly describe the details in the woman’s medical chart.
The bill would also require physicians performing an abortion to provide patients or their guardians with information regarding adoption and a statewide list of attorneys available to provide volunteer legal services for adoption.
The bill would prohibit using any live fetus or live, premature infant for any type of scientific, research, laboratory, or other kind of experimentation before or after any termination of pregnancy procedure except as necessary to protect or preserve the life and health of such fetus or premature infant.
The bill states that fetal remains shall be disposed of in a sanitary and appropriate manner and in accordance with standard health practices, as provided by rule of the department.
Refusal to Participate in Termination Procedure
The bill would allow any hospital or person to refuse to participate in the termination of a pregnancy due to moral or religious grounds.
Infants Born Alive
The bill states that an infant born alive during or immediately after an attempted abortion is entitled to the same rights, powers and privileges as any other child born alive in the course of natural birth.
If an infant is born alive during or immediately after an attempted abortion, any health care practitioner present at the time would be required to exercise the same degree of care to preserve the life and health of the infant.
Any infant born alive must be immediately transported and admitted to a hospital.
Adoption Alternative Information
The bill would require any physician or authorized personnel of a medical facility who learns that a patient wishes to obtain an induced abortion, or that a patient has had a termination of pregnancy where the fetus survived, to provide the patient with information concerning the availability of adoption for her unwanted child. The bill would establish an Office of Adoption and Child Protection to offer women who would otherwise choose abortion volunteer legal services to assist with adoption placement.
Standard of Care to be Used During Viability
The bill would require that abortions on viable fetuses be performed in a hospital or other medical establishment that is capable of providing all necessary lifesaving and life-sustaining medical services to the viable fetus. The bill would make it a first-degree felony for a physician to knowingly misrepresent the gestational age or stage of development of the fetus in any entry into a medical record or to fail to use the requisite standard of care to preserve the life and health of the fetus.
Insurance Coverage Ban
The bill would amend Florida’s restriction on use of state and federal funds to purchase insurance coverage for abortion (Fla. Stat. § 627.64995) to remove the exception for rape, incest, and health of the mother.
If passed, Florida law would prohibit without exception a health insurance policy purchased with state or federal funds through an exchange created under the Affordable Care Act from providing coverage for an induced (i.e., medication) abortion or for termination of a pregnancy.
Similar to SB 1718.
Similar to HB 247, which failed to pass in 2015.
Similar to HB 545, which failed to pass in 2014.
Rep. Charles Van Zant has introduced The Florida for Life Act in successive legislative sessions dating back at least to 2010. These bills have never passed and are unconstitutional.