Florida Governor Rick Scott signed H.B. 59, the “Unborn Victims of Violence Act,” into law last week. With the bill’s passage, Florida joins twenty-nine other states with laws that criminalize the deliberate harm or murder of an unborn child.
Previously, Florida’s statute of limitations reserved criminal charges until a child reached viability outside of the womb, usually between 18 and 22 weeks.
Now any deliberate wrongful harm that comes to an unborn child throughout the entirety of pregnancy is punishable as a criminal offense.
“There is no timeline anymore for justice for an unborn child of a pregnant woman,” explained the bill’s sponsor, State Rep. Larry Ahern, R–Fl. Abortion advocates remain unconvinced.
Amanda Allen of the Center for Reproductive Rights characterized the bill to RH Reality Check as “a cynical attempt for proponents to claim they care about the health of pregnant women.” Allen’s chief critique comes from the bill’s potential to “raise the specter of personhood into the law.”
Carrie Eisnaugle, the President of Florida Right to Life, described the law as a measure to protect women’s rights by providing legal recourse under state law for the wrongful injury of unborn children.
In an interview with Daily Signal she explained that “any other woman in Renee’s situation now has the ability to seek justice on behalf of her unborn child.”
Renee Lee’s tragedy provided the impetus for the law. Lee, a young woman dealing with an unexpected pregnancy, was duped into taking the abortifacient drug, Misoprostol, by her boyfriend, John Welden. Immediately Welden faced conviction, not for murder, but for “tampering with a consumer product.”
At the passage of the law, an emotional Lee told Reuters, when you “[want] that baby and someone violently takes it from you – it needs to be a crime.”