Florida lawmakers introduce bill to ban abortion after 15 weeks

Students from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School meet with Florida state legislators in Tallahassee

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) - Republican lawmakers in Florida filed a bill on Tuesday seeking to ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions in cases of serious medical emergencies for the mother or fatal fetal abnormalities.

The bill, introduced on the first day of the Florida legislature's 2022 session, sets the stage for a battle over abortion access expected to play out in courts and state capitols this year as the United States Supreme Court weighs a case that could overhaul abortion rights.

A 15-week ban would violate the Supreme Court's precedent in Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case that established a woman's right to terminate her pregnancy before the fetus is viable, at around 24 weeks.

But the Supreme Court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, has given anti-abortion advocates reason to hope that such a ban could soon stand.

In December, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Mississippi's bid to revive its 15-week ban on abortions, which lower courts had blocked. The conservative justices indicated sympathy toward Mississippi's law, and the court is expected to rule in the spring.

If the court rules in Mississippi's favor, it will pave the way for states like Florida to successfully defend their pre-viability bans on abortion in court.

The Florida bill is part of a wave of Republican-backed anti-abortion measures pursued around the country in recent years, and more are likely to follow in the run-up to the Supreme Court's decision. Florida law currently bans abortion after 24 weeks.

Abortion has long been a politically divisive issue in the United States, with abortion opponents concerned about preserving life from conception and abortion rights advocates standing for a woman's bodily autonomy.

The issue will likely play a prominent role in the 2022 midterm elections to decide control of Congress.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter; Editing by Sandra Maler)