Florida Suspends Bill to Protect ‘Unborn Child’ After I.V.F. Ruling

The News

Republican lawmakers in Florida sidelined a bill this week that would allow civil lawsuits over the wrongful death of a fetus.

Those on both sides of the abortion debate attributed the pause to fallout from the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling that frozen embryos should be considered children.

If it moves ahead, the bill would add Florida to the ranks of about a dozen other states that allow parents to receive financial damages in some instances when a fetus has died. The bill says in cases of wrongful death, parents of an “unborn child” are considered survivors who can sue in civil court.

But in recent weeks, Democrats and others warned that the bill amounts to “fetal personhood,” assigning full rights of a person to a fetus. Such a designation, they said, would imperil doctors and anyone who assisted women in obtaining an abortion and would also adversely affect fertility treatments.

On Monday, Republican legislative leaders in Florida announced that they had postponed the bill.

“Although I have worked diligently to respond to questions and concerns, I understand there is still work that needs to be done,” Senator Erin Grall, a Republican from Vero Beach and the bill’s sponsor, said in a statement. “It is important we get the policy right with an issue of this significance.”

Why It Matters: I.V.F. ruling presents new challenges for Republicans

Last week’s ruling in Alabama created a political storm for Republicans who were already battling internal divisions and public opinion over abortion.

The Alabama ruling prompted abortion opponents like former President Donald J. Trump and several Republican governors to underscore their support for I.V.F.

Though the Florida bill does not mention I.V.F., critics feared that it could affect fertility treatments and make it harder for families to have children.

“It’s fair to assume that I.V.F. was a problem for this bill from the jump,” said Mary Ziegler, a law professor and historian at the University of California, Davis, who used to teach at Florida State University. “But the degree of backlash and concern increased significantly after the ruling. It’s kind of like it turned into a firestorm.”

Background: Fetal personhood is a goal for anti-abortion activists

Back to top button