Three Pro-Life Bills Making Their Way; Abortion Ban Stalled
Around the State
Three pro-life bills moved through the Florida House committee process Wednesday morning, while a fourth – an outright ban on all abortions except those performed to save the life of the mother – appears to have stalled in the Judiciary Committee.
HB 845, the "Prenatal Nondiscrimination Act,” would require abortionists to sign affidavits to state that they are not performing abortions because of an unborn child's sex or race. The bill's principal sponsor, Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, told members of the House Criminal Justice Subcommittee that the measure was a necessary protection against racial and sexual discrimination.
“Sex-selective abortion ... is nothing more than gender-based violence and death of otherwise healthy babies, and has no implications for the health of the mother,” the staunchly pro-life representative told fellow legislators. “It is sex-based discrimination at its lowest.”
The bill's resolution cites statistics to the effect that hundreds of millions of women are “demographically missing” from the world due to “sexist practices, including sex-selection abortion," and cites resolutions by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, and the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women opposing the practice.
The measure passed the subcommittee along a party-line vote.
HB 759, the “Offenses Against Unborn Children Act,” also passed the subcommittee, with freshman Rep. Mike Clelland, D-Lake Mary, lending his vote to that of his Republican colleagues. The bill provides that anyone who commits a criminal offense that results in harm to an “unborn child” is responsible for a separate, additional offense from the one committed against the mother.
Currently, Florida and federal law criminalize the killing of unborn children (outside an abortion) only in certain circumstances, and even then the only fetuses covered are those who are “viable,” capable of living outside the womb. HB 759, sponsored by Rep. Larry Ahern, R-Seminole, covers children from the moment of conception.
HB 1129 (“Infants Born Alive"), sponsored by freshman Rep. Cary Pigman, R-Avon Park, would require doctors to provide reasonable medical treatment and health care to infants born alive during a botched abortion procedure. The measure was taken up by the House Civil Justice Subcommittee; Clelland and fellow freshman Rep. Jose Rodriguez, D-Miami, joined every Republican member in supporting it.
HB 395, the “Florida for Life Act,” is apparently stalling in the Judiciary Committee, despite the fact that chairman Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, is one of the bill's co-sponsors. The bill would ban all abortions in Florida except those performed to save the life of the mother or protect her from “serious risk” to her health. The bill, which runs afoul of the U.S. Constitution as interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court since 1973, has been introduced by Van Zant in every legislative session since 2010.
Clelland, who has described himself as a “conservative kind of guy,” though a “social liberal,” spoke to SSN after his votes, and made clear his support for HB 759 and HB 1129 were very qualified.
“I've been pro-choice my whole adult life,” he explained. He said he does not agree with HB 749's covering of fetuses from the moment of conception, but agreed to support it after Ahern assured him the two could work together to find a compromise.
As to Pigman's Infants Born Alive bill, “I just find it so reasonable,” he said. When he found out that doctors who perform abortions are allowed to kill or neglect infants born alive during botched procedures, “it floored me that this exists at all, ever. When I heard that this happens, I was just taken aback.”
Still, he's uncomfortable with a provision in the bill that presumes a mother “surrenders” her rights over the child who survives an abortion.
"In the circumstance of an infant born alive from an abortion, there is at least suspicion that the biological mother may not have the better interest of that born-alive infant in mind," Pigman explained during the committee meeting, after which he assured members he would work on incorporating language into the bill that would provide ways for the mother to regain her custody.
Each of the four bills has a Senate companion, though the Florida Unborn Victims of Violence Act companion is the only one making progress there. Van Zant tells SSN he's hopeful that even if none of them makes it to the Senate floor directly through the committee process, any which pass the House might get a hearing in that chamber through any number of complex procedural maneuvers.
Reach Eric Giunta at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (954) 235-9116.