TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The clock is ticking against legislation that would’ve empowered grieving parents to sue and seek damages in Florida after the wrongful death of an unborn child.

What You Need To Know

  • The bill would’ve empowered grieving parents to sue after the wrongful death of an unborn child

  • The bill now faces long odds with only two weeks left in session

  • Critics feared the bill threatened abortion access in Florida

  • Supporters say the legislation aided grieving families after negligence

The bill (SB 467) is now in political limbo after the bill sponsor shelved it Monday before its final panel vote in the Senate Rules Committee. 

The move to postpone the vote comes after Democratic lawmakers and abortion advocates raised concerns, saying the bill threatened access to abortion.

The proposal now faces difficult odds. Only two weeks remain in the 2024 Legislative Session. Plus, the Senate Rules Committee is not scheduled to meet again. Session ends March 8. 

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

Despite Grall’s repeated reassurances, Democratic lawmakers rebuked the bill sharply as a threat to abortion access in Florida. 

Senate Minority Leader Lauren Book condemned it Monday as a “backdoor attempt” against abortion, just moments before the committee meeting.

She, among others, fears the legislation would’ve established “fetal personhood” — a term generally meaning that an unborn child at conception possesses the same human rights as a full-born person.

“Thankfully, it appears personhood will not be the law of the land in our state,” said Book in a statement after the postponement. 

According to a staff analysis, Florida’s position on unborn children is rare. The state is one of six limiting civil cases for unborn children after a wrongful death, according to the staff analysis.

Grall tried repeatedly to address critics’ concerns throughout the committee process. The proposal provided immunity to pregnant mothers. A pending amendment also offered immunity to abortion providers. 

“It is my understanding this is the first time this issue has been considered by the Florida Legislature,” Grall added, underscoring the issue’s complexity. 

The bill is an expansion of the state’s Wrongful Death Act, which outlines what benefits family members may pursue after a wrongful death. Surviving loved ones under the act may recover lost wages, benefits, and more.

The bill’s companion, meanwhile, awaits final consideration in the House.