TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (Jan. 25, 2016) – Today, the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee passed a bill that would outlaw most abortions, nullifying the Supreme Court opinion of Roe v. Wade in practice.

Charles Van Zant (R – Palatka) filed House Bill 865 (HB865) on Dec. 2. Titled the “Florida for Life Act,” the legislation would prohibit abortions, with exceptions for the life and health of the mother. The proposed law rests on a precise legal definition of life established within the legislative language.

“Human life” means a human person and is the biological development of the species homo sapiens that begins when a human egg is fertilized by a human sperm and continues to develop as a living organism.

Any person performing an abortion outside of the specified exceptions could be charged with a first degree felony under the law. It would also make it a felony to operate any facility, business or service for the purpose of providing induced abortions.

Along with limiting abortion, HB865 creates a structure to provide services if a pregnant woman wants to put her baby up for adoption.

Today, the subcommittee passed the bill with an 8-3 vote. Passage into law would undoubtedly set up a confrontation between the state of Florida and the federal government. The Supreme Court has held that states cannot regulate abortions before a fetus is “viable” – generally around 22 weeks.

The opinion of Supreme Court judges notwithstanding, the federal government lacks any constitutional authority to regulate abortions. This clearly falls within the objects James Madison said would remain with the state governments – “objects which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people.”

But in Roe v. Wade, the SCOTUS created a constitutional “right to privacy” out of thin air and enforced it on state governments through the “due process” clause of the 14th Amendment. Justice Byron White captured the absurdity of the ruling in a blistering dissent.

“I find nothing in the language or history of the Constitution to support the Court’s judgment. The Court simply fashions and announces a new constitutional right for pregnant mothers and, with scarcely any reason or authority for its action, invests that right with sufficient substance to override most existing state abortion statutes.”

From a constitutional perspective based on the original meaning of the Constitution and the 14th Amendment, HB865 law rests on solid ground. How it would play out in practice, should it pass into law, remains to be seen.

HB865 will now move to the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee, where it will need to pass to move forward.

Mike Maharrey

The 10th Amendment

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