In an op-ed for South Florida Sun Sentinel, state Sen. Nan Rich, D-Sunrise, writes that the GOP-led Legislature is yet again focusing on curbing women’s rights, instead of easing the pain of the state’s economic woes.

Rich writes:

Earlier this year, as Florida’s number of unemployed continued to soar above the national average and Tallahassee Republicans maintained a deaf ear to their plight, one GOP lawmaker rose above the conservative rhetoric, castigating her party members for deference to dogma over responsibility.

“I came up here to get people jobs,” said state Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, during debate on a bill forcing women to get and pay for an ultrasound prior to an abortion. “I came up here to protect people from the kinds of safety issues that fire and police take care of. I came up here to protect education.”

The ultrasound bill was one of 18 such measures filed by the Republican majority this past year. They were accompanied by such conservative red meat priorities as cutting jobless benefits and $4 billion in funding to everything from public education to Medicaid reimbursement rates. They did, however, strengthen gun rights.

Rich also criticizes the Legislature for doing little to create jobs and pushing forward “right wing priorities” at the expense of public safety nets.

She laments that as the next legislative session nears, “the Republican right-wing is busily front-loading their agenda.”

“And here we go again with laws tightening the regulation of women and their bodies and further expanding school vouchers,” she writes.

Among the first crop of bills introduced before this upcoming legislative session, is a controversial “omnibus anti-choice bill.” The bill — which was introduced by regular anti-abortion advocate state Sen. Anitere Flores, R-Miami — is a grab bag of anti-abortion measures.

Senate Bill 290 would restrict “the circumstances in which an abortion may be performed in the third trimester or after viability,” which women’s health advocates say would disregard the mental and physical health of a mother. The bill also requires that “an abortion clinic … be owned and operated by a physician who has received training during residency in performing a dilation-and-curettage procedure or a dilation-and-evacuation procedure or by a corporation or limited liability company composed of one or more such physicians.”

Among other provisions in the bill is a waiting period for women, a requirement that “each applicable board require a physician who offers to perform or performs abortions to annually complete a course relating to ethics as part of the licensure and renewal process.” However, there is no description of what that “ethics” class would entail.

The bill also changes wording in state laws by changing the term “termination of pregnancy” to “abortion.” Opponents of the bill have said this is little more than a political gesture.

State Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Palatka, has also said that he would that he would reintroduce a bill that bans abortion in the state, providing only an exception to save the life of the mother. The bill would make performing an abortion a felony.

The 2012 legislative session begins Jan. 10.

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