Bipartisan opposition sprang up today during a Florida Senate debate over a bill that requires clinics to offer ultrasounds to women seeking abortions. The measure previously mandated that all women view an ultrasound before an abortion, but was tweaked recently to allow patients to opt-out by signing a form.
Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, opened the debate by saying he sees legislating on abortion issues as “why we come here.”
Gardiner’s colleague, Evelyn Lynn, R-Daytona Beach, gave an emotional speech in opposition to that statement.
“I came up here this year not to tell you what to do with your bodies, not to tell you what your religious beliefs should be, not tell you what your sense of values should be,” she said. “You know why I really came up here this year? I came up here to help people put food on their tables. I came up here to get people jobs.”
Lynn sided with Floridians who have feared that the legislature has spent too much time during this legislative session on social issues such as abortion, instead of creating jobs in the state. She said taking up bills on abortion “has nothing to do with jobs.”
“This morning the unemployment is up and the value of houses is down,” she said. “And I haven’t come up with anything I have passed that has addressed these issues.”
Lynn said she will continue to not vote for a single abortion bill because it “is not the issue that is the most important issue in this state.”
Other Republicans, such as Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, also spoke against Senate Bill 1744.
Sen. Chris Smith, D-Oakland Park, said that Republicans would have to do “intellectual gymnastics” in order to support this bill.
He explained that it was hypocritical for the legislature to have passed a constitutional amendment yesterday aimed at overturning a provision in health care reform bill that mandate’s people to buy health insurance — and then vote for this bill the next day.
Language in yesterday’s amendment includes: “To preserve the freedom of all residents of the state to provide for their own health care … a law or rule may not compel, directly or indirectly, any person, employer, or health care provider to participate in any health care system.”
Smith told the legislature to not vote on the bill “if you truly believe that government should not mandate medical services.”
Sen. Jack Latvala, R-St. Petersburg switched his vote on the bill. When the bill was in committee he was opposed. His concerns were that women would be forced to hear a description of the ultrasound. With the new opt-out provision in the bill, Latvala felt the bill was worth supporting.
Democratic Sens. Arthenia Joyner, Eleanor Sobel, and Nan Rich all debated in opposition to the bill, much like they have done through this entire legislative session when abortion-restricting bills have come up.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Ronda Storm, R-Valrico, passed 24-15.