Florida House Passes Mandatory Ultrasound, Other Pro-Life Bills
Around the State
Engaging in often emotion debates over the proposals, the Florida House Wednesday passed a package of pro-life legislation, including a measure requiring women seeking abortions to have and pay for an ultrasound.
Republicans and Democrats engaged in limited debate over the bills based on a previous agreement. At the start of the debate, House Majority Leader Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami marshaled Republicans, while Rep. Jim Waldman of Coconut Creek served in his now-familiar role as floor manager for the Democrats.
The first bill tackled was HB 501 which was sponsored by Rep. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala. Baxley’s bill would move fees garnered from the sale of the ChooseLife license plates to be redistributed from counties to the Choose Life Foundation, which runs pregnancy centers encouraging pregnant women to put their unborn children up for adoption instead of having an abortion. The bill passed 82-35 with four Democrats breaking with their party to back the measure.
“Never has a specialty plate been more harassed than this specialty plate,” said Baxley, who added that it was over its pro-life message. He attacked the “lack of uniformity” currently in place in the counties.
Democrats tried to chip away at the measure, arguing that the money raised may not be spent in the Sunshine State.
“There is no guarantee that the women helped will be … in Florida,” said Rep. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach.
“There is nothing that they are doing that is above the radar,” insisted Waldman, who argued that the state could not hold the organization accountable.
“We know where the money will go,” fired back Rep. Larry Ahern, R-St. Petersburg. “We know it is, in fact, a pro-life organization.”
Baxley also sponsored forwarding a proposed constitutional amendment to the voters which would ensure the Florida Constitution would not create broader abortion rights than the U.S. Constitution. The proposal passed 82-35.
Republicans backed the measure, arguing that the proposal would allow Floridians to weigh in on the matter while still respecting Roe v. Wade as the law of the land.
“Let the people decide if they want public dollars to be used to fund abortion,” said Baxley.
“This is one of the most important issues we will face in the Legislature,” said Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville. “The question we have to ask ourselves is when does life begin.”
“Why does justice stop when we get to unborn children?” continued Perry. “Put away your political affiliations and look at this bill.”
Democrats insisted that Baxley’s proposed amendment was an attack on women, often resorting to emotional arguments.
“Here we go again, females being attacked in this chamber,” insisted Rep. Gwyn Clarke-Reed, D-Pompano Beach.
“This bill is a back-door attempt to send women to the back alleys,” said Rep. Scott Randolph, D-Orlando. “If you believe there is any right to choose in this state, you should not vote for this amendment.”
Legislators took to the floor to debate the measure -- with Democrats attacking it and Republicans praising it, sparring over the use of taxpayer dollars and abortion, when life begins, religion, and the right to privacy.
The only Democrat to speak for Baxley’s proposal was Rep. Daphne Campbell of Miami Shores. She spoke passionately for the proposal, speaking out against abortion and quoting the Bible.
For the amendment to be passed, 60 percent of the voters need to approve it at the ballot box.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, introduced a proposal banning the use of public funds to be used for elective abortions. Gaetz’s bill passed 80-37, which came closer to party lines than either of the two measures introduced by Baxley.
“It says we won’t let the Affordable Care Act do an end-run around the Hyde Amendment,” insisted Gaetz. While stressing his pro-life credentials, Gaetz said the measure would protect Floridians who do not want their dollars to go to a procedure they cannot back.
The debate on Gaetz’s measure proved very emotional, with both sides referring to incidents from their own lives.
Saying the federal Hyde Amendment already took care of the matter, Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, called Gaetz’s bill “unnecessary” and insisted it would lead to women being forced to pay for medically necessary abortions out of their own pockets. “Law will never stop abortions,” said Cruz in an emotional speech, referring to her Catholic faith and the fact that she had her daughter at 16, refusing to have an abortion. She encouraged pro-life advocates to work in their churches and communities to reduce the number of abortions.
Rep. Ed Hooper, R-Clearwater, responded to Cruz with an emotional address of his own -- noting that his 16-year-old daughter was pregnant and that he encouraged her to have an abortion. He said he was glad that she had ignored him, noting that a year later he and the newborn walked his daughter down the aisle.
The House also backed a measure tweaking and tightening up the parental notification laws for minors seeking abortions, backed by Rep. Kelli Stargel, R-Lakeland. While Waldman still led Democrats, Republicans turned to Rep. Jim Frishe of Belleair Bluffs to manage debate. Stargel’s bill passed 82-35.
Republicans maintained that Stargel’s bill would help parents take a greater role in helping their children who were considering having abortions.
“It is about a parent being able to help their child to make a decision that will affect them for the rest of their life,” said Rep. Janet Adkins, R-Fernandina Beach. “This bill strengthens the parent to get notification.”
Democrats insisted that the measure was not necessary and could impact young women in grave and threatening situations.
“We need to remember that 97 percent of the … young women under the age of 18 who sought abortions sought parental notice or consent,” said Rep. Michele Rehwinkel Vasilinda, D-Tallahassee, who said the other 3 percent were women who felt “trapped and desperate” as they contemplated having the procedure done.
Rep. John Patrick Julien of North Miami Beach spoke for the measure, joining Campbell as the two Democrats to do so. “Let’s say that abortion is the genocide of the unborn,” Julien said.
“This bill is not an abortion bill,” insisted Stargel as she closed the debate. “It’s a parental rights bill.”
The ultrasound measure, similar to the one that passed the Legislature last year but was vetoed by then-Gov. Charlie Crist, passed 81-37.
Legislators debated the measure, which was introduced by Rep. Elizabeth Porter, R-Lake City, for more than an hour and a half, clashing on medicine, the necessity of the legislation and over who would pay for the ultrasound.
“When did an abortion procedure become part of health care?” demanded Ahern, who insisted that ultrasounds were used in many medical procedures and provided information to both the doctors and the woman. “What this bill does is allow a woman a choice to see a sonogram.”
“This is the only opportunity for the child to provide input,” insisted Rep. Mike Weinstein, R-Jacksonville, who pointed to the importance of ultrasounds in making mothers feel connected to their unborn children.
Democrats fired back, questioning the need for the bill when the economy continued to struggle and the budget remained incomplete.
“How does this legislation before us today serve any valid purpose?” asked Berman, who said it would “increase regulation” and take away “rights and liberties.”
“Forcing physicians to perform ultrasounds … inserts the Legislature into the doctor-patient relationship,” added Berman. “This Legislature should not be involved in, nor should it dictate, private medical practice.”
“Here we are pushing an individual mandate,” said Randolph. “This provides no choice for a woman. This provides a mandate for a woman.”
The final bill, introduced by Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, which would clamp down on third-trimester abortions, passed on a 79-36 vote.
“This does not limit the third-trimester abortions,” insisted Burgin as she closed on her bill.
Rep. Carlos Trujilo, R-Miami, took to the floor, insisting that unborn children in the third trimester feel pain as they are aborted. “This bill protects life,” he said.
Democrats took aim at the bill which did not make exceptions for pregnancies caused by rape or incest.
“Any woman who seeks an abortion in the third trimester does so out of desperation,” insisted Rep. Geri Thompson, D-Orlando, who added an abortion that late in the pregnancy is “not birth control.”
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