April 23, 2015 — The Florida House on Wednesday voted 77-41 to advance a bill (HB 633) that would require a 24-hour mandatory delay period before a woman can have an abortion, the Tallahassee Democrat reports (Cotterell, Tallahassee Democrat, 4/22).
The state Senate is set to take up an identical bill (SB 724) on Thursday (Menzel, News Service of Florida/CBS Miami, 4/22). Through a procedural move, the state Senate is expected to substitute its measure for the House bill before voting on its final passage. According to the Democrat, the state Senate's approval of the measure "appears certain" (Tallahassee Democrat, 4/22).
The bill, proposed by state Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R), would require a woman to meet in person with a physician at least 24 hours prior to having an abortion (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/3). According to the Democrat, Florida already requires women to receive counseling from a physician prior to the procedure (Tallahassee Democrat, 4/22).
The state House on Tuesday approved an amendment to the legislation to waive the delay for women who are survivors of rape, incest, human trafficking or domestic violence. However, the exemptions would only be provided if women could produce certain documentation, such as medical records, police reports or restraining orders (News Service of Florida/CBS Miami, 4/22).
Sullivan said the legislation is intended to "empower[r] women."
However, state House Minority Leader Mark Pafford (D) said, "The presumption that there has not already been 24 hours to make that decision is perplexing to me," adding, "This is an example of government intrusion" (Sweeney, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 4/23).
Meanwhile, state Rep. Victor Torres (D) criticized the documentation requirement for waiving the mandatory delay. He said, "As a retired cop, I look at the victim of rape, the victim who is violated by a family member. You think she's going to have documentation? She's going to run to the police and report it?" (McGrory, Tampa Bay Times, 4/22).
Several state lawmakers who support abortion rights also said the measure, if made law, likely would be challenged on constitutional grounds in the courts. According to the Sun-Sentinel, the Florida Constitution requires laws that invade individuals' privacy to be as unobtrusive and narrow as feasible, a more stringent standard than the U.S. Constitution.
State Rep. Lori Berman (D) said, "Requiring two in-person visits with a doctor is far from the least intrusive means necessary" (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 4/23).