Abortion Returns to Center Stage
By John Gramlich, Staff Writer
The Florida Senate on Thursday (April 29) put the state budget, a property-insurance overhaul, an energy bill and other end-of-session legislation on hold while it debated imposing tough new abortion rules, The Miami Herald reported.
If approved, the Florida bill would become at least the third state measure in recent weeks to impose strict new regulations on women who seek abortions. Nebraska and Oklahoma passed laws earlier this month that are considered among the toughest in the nation.
Florida's legislation would require women to pay for ultrasounds and have the results read to them before they can have an abortion. The bill provoked intense disagreement on the Senate floor, even among legislators from the same party.
"Maybe it will have an impact on your decision," said Republican Senator Andy Gardiner, who sponsored the ultrasound requirement in the hopes of reducing the number of abortions in the state. "You realize that what you're dealing with is by far the most important decision in your whole life."
But another Republican, Senator Mike Bennett, said the legislation would simply make women seeking abortions "feel more miserable on this tough choice."
Oklahoma approved a similar ultrasound requirement earlier this week, when the majority Republican Legislature overrode the vetoes of Democratic Governor Brad Henry. The Oklahoma legislation goes further, however. It not only requires women to receive ultrasound screenings, it requires doctors or technicians to set up monitors so patients can see the results and see the heart and limbs of the fetus, The New York Times reported.
At a Tulsa abortion clinic a day after the law was passed, "women became emotional and some cried after being shown fetal ultrasound images," The Oklahoman newspaper reported. "None of the women, however, decided against terminating their pregnancies."
Nebraska, meanwhile, on April 13 banned most abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy on the grounds that a fetus at that stage in pregnancy would feel pain. According to The New York Times, "The law, which appears nearly certain to set off legal and scientific debates, is the first in the nation to restrict abortions on the basis of fetal pain."