Democrats blast Florida abortion bills
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05/13/14 Janelle Irwin
WMNF Drive-Time News Tuesday | Listen to this entire show:
Tags: abortion, Debbie Wasserman Shultz, Lori Berman, 2014 legislative session, Rick Scott

Two abortion bills are waiting on Florida Governor Rick Scott’s signature. One would make it a crime to cause the death of a fetus at any stage of gestation. The other would place further restrictions on how far into a pregnancy an expectant mother could obtain an abortion. During a phone conference Tuesday, Democrats, including Congress member Debbie Wasserman Schultz condemned both measures as interfering with women’s healthcare options.

“The overwhelming majority of Flordians support a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decision – that trust women to make those decisions – and don’t think that what we need is more government in the middle of a woman’s decision on how to take care of herself.”

Under current Florida law a person can only be charged with a crime if a fetus dies as a result of vehicular homicide, DUI manslaughter or by killing the mother and only if the fetus is viable outside the womb. Critics of a similar measure last year worried it would create personhood for early-stage fetuses and lead to broader anti-abortion measures. The other measure, HB 1047, bans termination of a pregnancy at the point of viability. That’s about two weeks earlier than the current ban on third trimester abortions.

“The Republican legislature decided that woman’s healthcare issues and restricting a woman’s right to make her own healthcare decision and passing extremist, Tea Party-infused legislation like this was a higher priority than passing legislation to focus on job creation, focusing on continuing to get the economy turned around, focus on making sure that we don’t leave $51 billion on the table in federal funds to ensure that a million people in Florida can get access to healthcare.”

According to the Bradenton Herald, there were no documented third trimester abortions in Florida last year and 90% of abortions were completed in the first trimester. Statistics like these leave opponents accusing Republicans of furthering conservative agendas. Lori Berman is the Deputy Democratic Whip in the Florida House. She said the bill doesn’t clearly define when a fetus would be viable.

“It should be decided between a doctor and a woman and that should be her choice. It shouldn’t be the legislature mandating what different definitions are.”

But under the bill, it would be up to a doctor to decide whether a fetus could survive outside the womb. To figure that out, women seeking an abortion would be forced to undergo what critics call an unnecessary and invasive medical procedure. Berman is also worried about a provision in the bill that would hurt women who find out late in pregnancy that their child has a severe medical problem.

“The bill does not contain exceptions for severe fetal abnormalities or rape or incest. So, you’ve got a situation where you’re forcing women to carry babies to term and it’s a personal decision between her and her doctor and her family.”

Both bills are expected to be signed by Governor Scott. Former Orlando police chief Val Demings is cautioning the governor that these types of measures are not what most people in the state are worried about.

“Putting addition additional restrictions on women’s health and trying to police women’s bodies is not what I hear. What I do hear is, Floridians are looking for their leaders to focus on jobs and the economy, not divisive social legislation that could scare away businesses.”

Governor Scott has signed several bills pro-choice advocates call anti-abortion. That includes a bill last year requiring doctors to provide emergency care if a baby is born alive after an attempted abortion.

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