The Florida House passed a bill Thursday that creates a separate criminal offense for anyone who hurts an unborn child.
HB 759, creates the Florida Unborn Victims of Violence Act, which specifies that if a person commits a crime that causes the death of or bodily injury to an unborn child that person commits a separate offense in addition to that against the mother. The bill does not require proof that the person committing the offense had knowledge or should have had knowledge that the mother was pregnant, nor does it require the person to have intended to cause the death of or bodily injury to the unborn child.
The legislation applies to any stage of pregnancy.
That prompted criticism from opponents, who said a person might not even know a woman was pregnant but could face a murder charge from the death of an unborn child.
Supporters of the bill argued people should be held responsible for their actions, even if they didnt know a woman was pregnant.
Rep. Elizabeth Porter said a pregnant woman considers her unborn child to be a child.
Do not tell me and do not tell any of the other women in this room or in this state that because they have not given birth to their child yet, it is somehow inconsequential, unimportant and not their child, said the Lake City Republican.
Meanwhile, Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, argued, It is elevating the legal status of a fertilized egg to that of an adult human being.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott supports the measure.
Today, in passing HB 759, the Florida House took a major step in protecting the life of mothers and the unborn," said Scott. "I consider every life precious and worth protecting, and this bill helps make sure those who kill or harm an unborn baby are held accountable for taking or injuring an innocent life."
The bill passed 74-43 and now heads to the Senate.
The House also passed a bill Thursday that bans anyone from seeking an abortion based on the sex or race of a child.
Dave Heller is a Tallahassee freelance journalist who contributed to this article.