Fla. House Panel Advances Bills To Restrict Abortion Access

January 25, 2012 — A Florida House subcommittee on Tuesday approved three antiabortion-rights measures, including provisions that would require a 24-waiting period before the procedure, prohibit abortion for reasons related to sex or race and ban abortion care after 20 weeks of gestation, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel reports (Haughney, South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 1/25).

Members of the Republican-led committee voted along party lines, with opponents arguing that the bills are an attempt to stigmatize abortion care, infringe on women's right to privacy and intrude in the doctor-patient relationship (Kaczor, AP/Miami Herald, 1/24). Advocates for Planned Parenthood raised concern that the measures do not include exceptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, 1/25).

Most of the debate centered on a bill (HB 277) sponsored by Rep. Rachel Burgin (R) that would establish several new restrictions on abortion access (Saunders, "Central Florida Political Pulse," Orlando Sentinel, 1/24).The measure would mandate a 24-hour waiting period before abortion care, require abortion providers to obtain continuing education in ethics and require that new abortion clinics be owned by doctors who had received training on abortion care during their residencies (AP/Miami Herald, 1/24).

Another bill (HB 1327) would make it illegal to knowingly perform an abortion sought because of the sex or race of the fetus or race of the parent. The bill also would allow prosecution of abortion providers who perform the procedure or accept payments to do so based on either factor (Women's Health Policy Report, 1/10). Emily Caponetti of the Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates called the bill "an attempt to inflame racial and gender tensions in communities of color in order to undermine access to abortion care" (AP/Miami Herald, 1/24).

The third bill (HB 839) would ban abortion care after 20 weeks of pregnancy. The bill's sponsor, Rep. Daniel Davis (R), said some researchers say fetuses can feel pain at that point. Rep. Lori Berman (D) said the 20-week benchmark is "arbitrary" and "unscientific" ("Central Florida Political Pulse," Orlando Sentinel, 1/24).