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

An omnibus anti-abortion bill containing a slew of anti-abortion rights measures, including a highly controversial “fetal pain” provision, has been placed on tomorrow’s special order calendar – which means the House may be placing a final vote on the bill by the end of the week.

The bill has been described by critics as a “clean-up bill” written to include several anti-abortion measures that did not pass last year and as an “omnibus anti-choice bill” that would crack down on legal abortions in the state. The bill, which is sponsored by state Rep. Rachel Burgin, R-Riverview, would make it difficult for providers to perform the legal service.

Provisions in the bill placing onerous restrictions on abortion providers have been denounced by groups such as Planned Parenthood, which claims that the bill would make it nearly impossible for the chain of women’s health clinics to open any new clinics in the state.

Women’s health advocates have criticized the bill for its failure to include protections for the mental and physical health of women who are pregnant – as of last week, the bill also includes a provision that would outlaw abortions after 20 weeks.

The measure is similar to a handful of bills seen last year in legislatures across the country. These so-called “fetal pain” bills have been found to be “neither scientifically nor constitutionally sound” by researchers and operate under the premise that a fetus can feel pain as early as 20 weeks, outlawing abortions once a fetus is presumed to feel pain. Current law protects a woman’s right to have an abortion up to at least 22-24 weeks and 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.

The Senate version of this bill, which does not include “fetal pain” language, passed through its first committee stop last week, and could be taken up on the Senate floor at any point before the end of session in two weeks.

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