Legislators add ‘fetal pain’ measure to ‘omnibus anti-choice’ bill

By | 02.23.12 | 11:21 am

State Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview (Pic by Mark Foley, via myfloridahouse.gov)

A bill that was already being described as a way to pass a slew of anti-abortion rights measures all at once has just absorbed another bill. This morning, in a House health committee meeting, an omnibus anti-abortion bill was amended to include a “fetal pain” measure that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks.

The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, introduced an amendment to her bill on behalf of state Rep. Daniel Davis, the sponsor of the “fetal pain” bill in the Florida House. The amendment, among many things, adds some of the language in Davis’ bill, which has been heard in two committees this session.

Davis, R-Jacksonville, came under fire from Democrats at the “fetal pain” bill’s last committee stop because it grants “a legal right to a rapist.” According to the way the bill is currently written, a biological father is given the right to take action against an abortion provider, with no caveats for rapists.

The measure is similar to a handful of bills seen last year in legislatures across the country: so-called “fetal pain” bills that have been found to be “neither scientifically nor constitutionally sound” by researchers. Current law protects a woman’s right to have an abortion up to 22-24 weeks, at least. The most recent study on this issue, published in Current Biology, found that a fetus does not feel pain until 35 to 37 weeks of gestation.

Burgin’s bill has already been criticized for being an “omnibus anti-choice bill” because it contains several measures that would make it harder for women to obtain legal abortions in the state. The bill would also make it very difficult for providers to perform the legal service. Furthermore, the bill does not include protections for the mental and physical health of women who are pregnant.

Emily Caponetti, who spoke on behalf of Planned Parenthood today, said the bill is “misguided” and creates “unnecessary government regulations” for health care providers.

Pamela Burch Fort of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida said the bill is a way to “shame” women seeking abortions and the doctors providing the service. State Rep. Mark Pafford, D-West Palm Beach, asked Burch-Fort if there are constitutional problems with the bill; she said yes.

Yesterday, the bill passed through a state Senate committee, despite an onslaught of amendments introduced by state Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, to make a statement about the Legislature’s fierce opposition to reproductive rights. State Rep. Elaine Schwartz, D-Hollywood, introduced similar amendments today, many of which failed or were withdrawn, in an effort to make the same point.

The bill passed down party lines.

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