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Fla. Gov. Signs Bill Redefining Fetal Viability

Fla. Gov. Signs Bill Redefining Fetal Viability

June 16, 2014 — Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) on Friday signed into law a bill (HB 1047) that increases abortion restrictions by redefining fetal viability and limiting when the procedure is permitted to protect a woman's health, the AP/Huffington Post reports.

The measure is scheduled to take effect on July 1 (AP/Huffington Post, 6/14).

Law Details

Florida law prohibits abortions if a fetus is deemed "viable," defined as when a fetus has a reasonable chance of surviving outside of the womb, which is typically about 24 weeks.

The new law will change the definition of viable to mean that a fetus could survive outside of the womb with medical assistance. It also requires physicians to determine if a fetus is viable before an abortion.

The law also adds new restrictions on abortions in the third trimester, which the state previously only permitted to save a woman's life or preserve her health. Under the new law, an abortion in the third trimester would only be permitted to save a woman's life "or avert a serious risk of imminent substantial and irreversible physical impairment of a major bodily function of the pregnant woman other than a psychological condition." This restriction also applies to post-viability abortions (Women's Health Policy Report, 4/9).

Comments

Scott spokesperson John Tupps said the governor "is pro-life and was glad to sign this bill that protects the lives of children."

Former state Sen. Nan Rich (D) -- who is seeking the Democratic nomination for the state's gubernatorial election this fall -- said, "Over the objections of nearly every group representing Florida women, this morning Rick Scott signed HB 1047, which places even more restrictions on women's access to reproductive choice" (AP/Huffington Post, 6/14).

Meanwhile, Sujatha Prabhakaran, a doctor working with Planned Parenthood, said that Scott took Florida "two steps backwards" with the new law, which "limits health exceptions and could risk women's health and lives" (Van Sickler, Miami Herald, 6/13).