Reproductive rights advocates expected it to happen, but this is fast.
Just weeks after Senate Bill 8 (SB8) went into effect in Texas on Sept. 1, Florida lawmakers are moving toward passing similar anti-choice legislation. On Sept. 22, Rep. Webster Barnaby filed House Bill 167 (HB167), a copycat law directly mirroring Texas’ restrictive abortion ban. Since SB8 went into effect, advocates have been worried that other states would follow Texas’ example, and now I guess it’s happening.
Much like the law in Texas, the new abortion bill in Florida would allow private citizens to sue providers who perform abortions after six weeks, as well as anyone else who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets the performance or inducement of an abortion,” per CNN. In Texas, if the lawsuit is successful, these private citizens can collect a “bounty” of up to $10,000, paid by the person or people sued. In some ways, the Florida bill is even more restrictive: It allows private citizens to pursue legal action up to six years after a ban-violating abortion is performed, while the Texas law only allows a four-year window.
While the majority of Florida residents believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases, according to 2014 data from Pew Research, that may not matter much compared to HB167’s notable support from state lawmakers. “I'm pro-life. I welcome pro-life legislation,” Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said at a Sept. 2 news conference after the Supreme Court failed to block Texas’ anti-choice law from taking effect, according to The Recount. “What they did in Texas was interesting,” he added. “I’m going to look a little more significantly at it.”
The new Texas law isn’t just inspiring anti-choice legislation in Florida — lawmakers across 10 states have openly admitted they plan on introducing similar copycat bills, per CNN. According to NARAL Pro-Choice America, these states span the country, and include Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Carolina, South Dakota and West Virginia.
Reproductive rights advocates are already speaking out about the Florida bill. “We are horrified to see anti-choice politicians in Florida following in Texas’ footsteps, and there’s no question that lawmakers hostile to reproductive freedom in other states will do the same,” Adrienne Kimmell, the acting president of NARAL Pro-Choice America, said in Sept. 22 statement shared with Elite Daily. “The harm of these draconian attacks cannot be overstated and they most acutely impact those who already face the greatest barriers to accessing care.”
Pregnancy capable people and advocates are concerned regulations on reproductive rights will only become more strict, especially in light of the legal challenges Roe v. Wade will face in the Supreme Court with Mississippi’s Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization case. That case, which will be heard on Dec. 1, will test whether all state laws that ban abortions pre-viability are unconstitutional. Meaning, the Supreme Court’s decision will either block these copycat anti-choice laws from taking effect, or it will pave the way for them to spread across the country.
In the meantime, there are ways that supporters of reproductive rights can take action to help protect access to abortion, from donations to activism. For advocates, the fight for reproductive rights is far from over.