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Florida 15-week abortion ban bill advances after activists get booted from committee hearing

The crowd started chanting when public comment was cut off and people were cleared out of the room while lawmakers debated.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A controversial bill that would ban access to abortions in Florida after 15 weeks advanced another hurdle Thursday evening.

Members of the House Healthcare Appropriations Subcommittee voted 10-5 in favor of the bill (HB 5). But, not before the crowd, many of whom were student activists, erupted in chants, “Let us speak!” when committee chairperson Rep. Bryan Avila (R-Miami Springs) cut off public comment.

Avila said it was in the interest of giving committee members enough time to discuss and debate.

A woman from Tampa Bay, who was last to speak during public comment, was escorted away from the podium and out of the room by House security as she tried to make her remarks.

The audio on the feed of the hearing was briefly cut as she was taken out of the room.

Activists with Equality Florida said lawmakers were “legislating our bodies behind closed doors.”

The meeting was briefly called into recess and the public was cleared out of the room. People were eventually allowed back in after the hearing has resumed.

“We’re certainly trying to make sure that we are able to do what we need to do,” Avila said to members during the hearing. "My intent, again, was to make sure each and every one of you had enough time to represent your constituents.”

The proposed legislation states "a physician may not perform a termination of pregnancy if the physician determines the gestational age of the fetus is more than 15 weeks." 

It does include exceptions if the mother's health is at risk or if "the fetus has a fatal fetal abnormality."

There is no exception for rape or incest. The bill will head to one more committee before it can be voted on in the full House.

Abortion is legal in Florida up to 24 weeks of gestation. It is only allowed beyond that if the pregnancy threatens a woman's life and physical health.

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