A controversial bill that would outlaw sex- or race-based abortions in Florida passed a state House health committee today.
Amid dozens of reproductive rights advocates, the committee passed a bill that would not allow a woman to seek an abortion if a provider finds out that she is seeking an abortion because of the baby’s race or sex. House Bill 1327, or the “Susan B. Anthony and Frederick Douglass Prenatal Nondiscrimination and Equal Opportunity for Life Act,” would make it a crime to have an abortion “that it is sought based on sex or race of child or race of parent of that child.” A similar bill was filed in the U.S. House by Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., last month and became law in Arizona last year.
The bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Scott Plakon, R-Longwood, claimed today that the bill had more to do with outlawing “discrimination” than abortion.
Democratic members of the committee asked Plakon several questions about the motivation for the bill and whether there was any evidence that the bill would address an actual problem in the state.
Plakon conceded that there was no evidence showing the issue is a problem. However, Plakon said that China and India were facing this problem and “to deny that this is occurring in our state is naive.”
State Rep. Gwyndolen Clarke-Reed, D-Pompano Beach, asked Plakon why he felt he had to ”question a woman’s reason to have an abortion.” She asked that he explain his “distrust of women,” “particularly women of color.”
Clarke-Reed said the bill “is very insulting” and makes the assumption that ”women cannot make their own decisions.” She said it was “culturally insensitive” and “highly inflammatory.”
State Rep. Jeff Clemens, D-Lake Worth. called the bill a “smokescreen.”
“In the absence of evidence that this is occurring,” Clemens said, “I don’t see how anyone could supports this bill.”
The League of Women Voters, Florida NOW, the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, the Anti-Defamation League and Planned Parenthood all testified against the bill. Emily Caponetti, a spokeswoman for Planned Parenthood, said the bill is meant “to inflame racial and gender tensions” and “undermine abortion care.” She called the bill ”insulting and inflammatory.”
Plakon said that all he heard “are accusations of motivation.” He maintained that his bill has less to do with regulating abortion and more to do with preventing discrimination.
“This is more about discrimination, not abortion,” Plakon said.
However, state Rep. Lori Berman, D-Delray Beach, argued that the bill ultimately ”doesn’t address discrimination.”
In Plakon’s bill, “abortion” is mentioned 51 times; “discrimination” 16.