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February 16, 2022

Chris Sprowls
Speaker, Florida House of Representatives
402 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399

Senator Wilton Simpson
President, The Florida Senate
404 South Monroe Street
Tallahassee, FL 32399

Re: House Bill 5/Senate Bill 146 threatens rights and dignity

Dear Speaker Prowls, President Simpson, and members of the Florida Legislature,

We write to you on behalf of Human Rights Watch to express our strong opposition to House Bill (HB) 5 Senate Bill (SB) 146, which would ban abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy. We urge you to vote against this cruel, extreme, and dangerous legislation.

Human Rights Watch is a global human rights organization with offices throughout the world, including in Miami, Florida, and an active committee of constituents from and throughout the state. We have extensively documented how laws and policies that restrict access to abortion threaten the health and lives of pregnant people and drive abortion underground, making it less safe.[1] International standards recognize these well-known risks created by restrictive abortion legislation like HB 5/SB 146 and call for authorities to ensure abortion access.[2]

Global research paints a consistent picture: abortion restrictions like HB 5/SB 146 result in many more unsafe abortions without reducing the overall rate of abortion. The rate of unsafe abortion is nearly 45 times higher in countries with highly restrictive abortion laws than in countries where abortion is legal and provided without restriction.[3] Notably, restrictive laws do not reduce the overall rate of abortion. To the contrary, in countries where abortion is prohibited altogether or permitted only to save the life or physical health of the pregnant person (i.e., a near facsimile of HB 5/SB 146), the rate of abortion is statistically identical to countries where abortion is broadly legal.[4]

Unsafe abortion is one of the leading causes of maternal mortality and morbidity, representing about eight percent of all maternal deaths worldwide.[5] Deaths and injuries from unsafe abortion are preventable. Abortion is one of the safest procedures in contemporary medical practice,[6] and is dramatically safer than continuing a pregnancy or childbirth.[7]

Being denied access to an abortion can have serious and lasting consequences for a pregnant person’s health and wellbeing, as well as that of their family. Studies show that denial of abortion care increases a person’s risk of poverty, physical health impairments, and intimate partner violence.[8]

The harmful impacts of abortion restrictions like HB 5/SB 146 fall disproportionately on people living in economic poverty; Black, Indigenous, and people of color; and adolescents and young people, as they are less likely to be able to travel to other states to access an abortion.[9]

In early 2020, Human Rights Watch wrote to Florida legislators about the particular barriers young people face in accessing safe abortion care due to Florida’s harmful forced parental involvement law.[10] Since then, Florida lawmakers have adopted more stringent requirements for young people seeking abortion care,[11] and the Covid-19 pandemic has compounded the barriers many adolescents across the US face in safely navigating the judicial bypass process to access abortion care without parental involvement.[12] HB 5/SB 146 will further exacerbate the challenges young people encounter by creating an arbitrary cut-off for access to health care, undoubtedly leading to cases where young people will be forced to continue pregnancies against their wishes or turn to unsafe abortion.

Access to safe and lawful abortion services is firmly rooted in the rights to life; to non-discrimination; to be free from torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; and to privacy. These rights are recognized in international human rights treaties ratified by the United States, such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, and the Convention Against Torture. Florida should not enact legislation that transgresses these commitments. Banning abortion clearly does so.

We respectfully urge you to consider the evidence described above and vote “no” on HB 5/SB 146.


Carine Chehab
Miami Director
Human Rights Watch

Macarena Sáez
Women’s Rights Director
Human Rights Watch


[1] See Human Rights Watch, “Reproductive Rights and Abortion,”

[2] This letter is adapted from a friend of the court brief Human Rights Watch, Global Justice Center, and Amnesty International submitted to the US Supreme Court to support a challenge to a 15-week abortion ban in the state of Mississippi (in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization). Brief of Amici Curiae Human Rights Watch, Global Justice Center, and Amnesty International in support of respondents, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, No. 19-1392 (5th Cir. 2019), September 20, 2021, (accessed January 20, 2022).

[3] Susheela Singh et al., “Abortion Worldwide 2017: Uneven Progress and Unequal Access,” Guttmacher Institute, March 2018, (accessed January 20, 2022).

[4] The rate in both categories is around 40 per 1000 women aged 15 to 44. “Unintended Pregnancy and Abortion Worldwide,” Guttmacher Institute, July 2020, (accessed January 20, 2022).

[5] Lale Say et al., “Global causes of maternal death: a WHO systematic analysis,” Lancet Global Health, vol. 2, no. 6 (2014): pp. 323, 331, accessed January 19, 2022, doi: 10.1016/S2214-109X(14)70227-X.

[6] David Grimes et al., “Unsafe Abortion: The Preventable Pandemic,” The Lancet Sexual and Reproductive Health Series, vol. 368, no. 9550 (2006): accessed January 20, 2022, doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(06)69481-6.

[7] Elizabeth Raymond and David Grimes, “The Comparative Safety of Legal Induced Abortion and Childbirth in the United States,” Obstetrics & Gynecology, vol. 119, no. 2, Part 1 (2012): pp. 215-219, accessed February 25, 2021, doi: 10.1097/AOG.0b013e31823fe923.

[8] Joshua Lang, “What Happens to Women Who Are Denied Abortions?” New York Times, June 12, 2013, (accessed January 20, 2022); see also “Turnaway Study: Long-Term Study Shows That Restricting Abortion Harms Women,” Advancing New Standards in Reproductive Health (ANSIRH), undated, (accessed August 15, 2021).

[9] See, for example, Human Rights Watch, “Why Do They Want to Make Me Suffer Again?”: The Impact of Abortion Prosecutions in Ecuador (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2021),; UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination Against Women in Law and In Practice on Its Mission to the United States of America, U.N. Doc. A/HRC/32/44/Add.2, August 4, 2016, para. 68. (“These [abortion] restrictions have a disproportionate and discriminatory impact on poor women. As the experts observed [in] one of the poorest regions in the country, immigrant women face severe barriers in accessing sexual and reproductive health services.”)

[10] Letter from Human Rights Watch to Senator David Simmons, “Senate Bill 404 threatens rights and dignity of adolescent girls,” January 14, 2020,

[11] Margaret Wurth, “Florida Imposes Forced Parental Consent for Abortion,” commentary, Human Rights Dispatch, July 1, 2020,

[12] See, for example, Human Rights Watch, “The Only People It Really Affects Are the People It Hurts”: The Human Rights Consequences of Parental Notice of Abortion in Illinois (New York: Human Rights Watch, 2021),

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