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Will Tampa Bay’s legislators follow Texas’ abortion model? We asked.

Florida’s legislative leadership has hinted at a similar bill coming to Florida’s next legislative session.
Tallahassee outside of Florida's Capitol complex.
Tallahassee outside of Florida's Capitol complex. [ SCOTT KEELER | Tampa Bay Times ]
Published Sep. 20
Updated Sep. 20

After a bill effectively banning abortion in nearly all cases, including rape and incest, became law in Texas — and the U.S. Supreme Court allowed it to remain — Florida lawmakers who have long tried to restrict abortion may see an opening.

Senate President Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, has said that leadership is already working on a bill similar to the one in Texas: a heartbeat bill that cuts abortion off after six weeks of pregnancy.

DeSantis has expressed support for a similar measure, and House Speaker Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, said he supports more restrictions on abortions, though didn’t answer specifically when asked by the Tampa Bay Times about the Texas law earlier this month.

With no allowance for cases of rape or incest, and the 6-week pregnancy window before many women know they’re pregnant, the Texas law is the most restrictive in the country.

One of its more novel and controversial measures is that it empowers regular residents to enforce the law, offering them a financial stipend if they successfully sue abortion providers or others who make it accessible. Yet when lawmakers were asked by the Times about this detail, even those who said they supported the Texas bill said it was too early to see what exactly Florida would mimic.

Despite the early enthusiasm, it’s far from a sure thing. A key Florida Senate Republican, Kathleen Passidomo, has said the Texas legislation would have a tough time advancing without some revisions. Democrats, meanwhile, are already rallying opposition.

The Times asked Tampa Bay legislators whether they’d support a measure similar to the Texas heartbeat bill. Here’s what they said.

Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, addresses a crowd of protesters before their evening march on Sunday, July 12, 2020 in St. Petersburg. Rouson told the group to march with a clear purpose.
Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, addresses a crowd of protesters before their evening march on Sunday, July 12, 2020 in St. Petersburg. Rouson told the group to march with a clear purpose. [ JONAH HINEBAUGH | Times ]

Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg: Would oppose a Texas-style bill. “I would not support that.”

State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, during a 2017 Suncoast Tiger Bay Club luncheon discussion.
State Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, during a 2017 Suncoast Tiger Bay Club luncheon discussion. [ SHADD, DIRK | Tampa Bay Times ]

Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg: Would support a Texas-style bill. “I’m pro-life and I will always support pro-life legislation.”

SCOTT KEELER   |   Times

Florida Senator Janet Cruz on the floor of the Florida Senate, Thursday, May 2, 2019.
SCOTT KEELER | Times Florida Senator Janet Cruz on the floor of the Florida Senate, Thursday, May 2, 2019. [ SCOTT KEELER | Times (2019) ]

Sen. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa: Would oppose. “I know exactly how difficult it is to be a teenage mother and not everyone is ready to be a parent, which is why comprehensive reproductive services need to be an option.”

Ben Albritton, pictured in his headshot
Ben Albritton, pictured in his headshot [ Courtesy of the Florida Senate ]

Sen. Ben Albritton, R-Bartow: Would support. “I believe that abortion is wrong and I support protecting unborn life.”

Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, presents her parental consent abortion bill (senate bill 404) during senate judiciary committee hearing on Wednesday Jan. 15, 2020, in Tallahassee, Fla.
Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland, presents her parental consent abortion bill (senate bill 404) during senate judiciary committee hearing on Wednesday Jan. 15, 2020, in Tallahassee, Fla. [ STEVE CANNON | Special to the Times ]

Sen. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland: Would support. “I would have to look at the details, Florida’s not Texas, we would have to look at how something like that would work in Florida but clearly I would support.”

Andrew Learned
Andrew Learned

Rep. Andrew Learned, D-Brandon: Would oppose. “I don’t understand why Republicans want to inject the government into personal healthcare choices; leave it between a woman, her family, her faith, and her doctor.”

State Rep. Dianne Hart encouragers voters at Souls to the Polls, an effort to mobilize Black voters in Hillsborough County, at AlÕs Finger Licking Good Soul Food in Ybor City on Saturday, October 31, 2020.
State Rep. Dianne Hart encouragers voters at Souls to the Polls, an effort to mobilize Black voters in Hillsborough County, at AlÕs Finger Licking Good Soul Food in Ybor City on Saturday, October 31, 2020. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Rep. Dianne Hart, D-Tampa: Would oppose. “I believe in a woman’s right to choose, period.”

Rep. Susan ValdŽs, D-Tampa, looks at her phone in between sessions during Opening Day of the Florida Legislature at the Capitol in Tallahassee  on Tuesday, March 2, 2021.
Rep. Susan ValdŽs, D-Tampa, looks at her phone in between sessions during Opening Day of the Florida Legislature at the Capitol in Tallahassee on Tuesday, March 2, 2021. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Rep. Susan Valdés, D-Tampa: Would oppose. “The law that just went into effect in Texas is draconian and almost certainly unconstitutional.”

Rep. Fentrice Driskell is one of at least two Tampa legislators renewing a move to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. [Photo courtesy of Driskell campaign]
Rep. Fentrice Driskell is one of at least two Tampa legislators renewing a move to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. [Photo courtesy of Driskell campaign]

Rep. Fentrice Driskell, D-Tampa: Would oppose. “Concerning the barbaric anti-abortion law, this legislation should not have been upheld and should not pass in Florida under any circumstances. Women’s reproductive rights are to be protected, not attacked.”

State representative Chris Latvala endorses Amanda Makki during an event hosted by Makki at Largo Central Park, to announce her run for Congress, Tuesday, July 20, 2021 in Largo.
State representative Chris Latvala endorses Amanda Makki during an event hosted by Makki at Largo Central Park, to announce her run for Congress, Tuesday, July 20, 2021 in Largo. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | Times ]

Rep. Chris Latvala, R-Clearwater: Would support. “I’m pro-life and I believe that life begins at conception.”

Ben Diamond
Ben Diamond [ Provided ]

Rep. Ben Diamond, D-St. Petersburg: Would oppose. “We have 50 years of federal case precedent to protect a woman’s right to choose, to protect our right to privacy, and this law that Texas passes flagrantly interferes with those constitutional rights.”

Rep. Michele Rayner speaks while Mayor Rick Kriseman looks on ahead of the raising of a Pride flag to celebrate Pride month outside St. Petersburg City Hall on Tuesday, June 1, 2021.
Rep. Michele Rayner speaks while Mayor Rick Kriseman looks on ahead of the raising of a Pride flag to celebrate Pride month outside St. Petersburg City Hall on Tuesday, June 1, 2021. [ IVY CEBALLO | Times ]

Rep. Michele Rayner, D-St. Petersburg: Would oppose. “Democrats, we’re not gonna just take it lying down, we’re not just going to allow it to happen without a fight.”

Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Bradenton, speaks in session
Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Bradenton, speaks in session [ FLORIDA HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES - MEREDITH GEDDINGS | Courtesy of the Florida House of Representatives ]

Rep. Tommy Gregory, R-Bradenton: Would support. “During my time in the Legislature, I’ve sponsored or co-sponsored every piece of pro-life legislation. Performing illegal abortions should result in penalties.”

A bloc of legislators did not reply to requests for comment, but they were endorsed by the Florida Right To Life Political Action Committee in 2020. The group believes that life begins at conception, according to their website.

The group endorsed Sen. Jim Boyd, R-Bradenton; Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto; Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill; Rep. Ardian Zika, R-Land O’ Lakes; Rep. Colleen Burton, R-Lakeland; Rep. Fred Hawkins, R-St. Cloud; Rep. Melony Bell, R-Fort Meade; Rep. Michael Beltran, R-Lithia; Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa; R-Palm Harbor; Rep. Nick DiCeglie, R-Indian Rocks Beach; Rep. Linda Chaney, R-St. Pete Beach; and Rep Will Robinson Jr., R-Bradenton.