2011 Legislative Session
TALLAHASSEE (NSF)—The Florida House of Representatives on Wednesday gave final approval to two measures aimed at restricting abortion, including a proposed constitutional amendment that will go on the 2012 ballot.
The proposed amendment (HJR 1179) would make clear that public money cannot be used for abortions. But it also includes a change that could make it harder to legally challenge abortion restrictions.
That change would prevent the Florida Constitution from being interpreted more broadly than the U.S. Constitution when it comes to abortion issues. That is important because a privacy clause in the Florida Constitution has been successfully used in the past to challenge abortion laws.
The Republican-dominated House voted 79-34 to approve the ballot measure, which passed the Senate last week. House members also approved the measure last week but had to vote again Wednesday because of a change made by the Senate.
Similarly, the House voted 80-35 to approve HB 97, which now goes to Gov. Rick Scott. The bill blocks abortion coverage in policies that will be sold through a state health-insurance exchange, which is expected to be created because of last year’s federal health overhaul.
The exchange, which would start in 2014, will provide a new type of marketplace for individuals and small businesses to buy insurance, with low-income people able to get federal subsidies.
Tax dollars cannot be used to pay for abortions in policies purchased through the exchange. But HB 97 will go further, preventing people from paying separately for abortion coverage.
The House votes could be the first in a series of abortion-related bills that lawmakers pass this week.
Earlier Wednesday, the Senate took up a bill that would require women to undergo ultrasounds before having abortions and another measure that would change the state’s parental-notification laws. The Senate could vote as early as Thursday on the bills, which have already been approved by the House.
Senators heavily debated HB 1247, which would place new restrictions on minors who seek court approval to get abortions without their parents being notified.
Part of the bill would restrict minors to seeking such approval within the judicial circuits where they live. Currently, they can go before judges anywhere in their appellate districts—a far-larger number of courts in some regions of the state.
In a 20-19 vote, senators rejected a proposed amendment that would have allowed minors to continue seeking approval throughout the appellate districts. Amendment supporters said it was particularly important in rural areas, where local judges or courthouse workers would be more likely to know minors and their families.
Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, said confidentiality is important because some minors could face violence if their parents find out they are pregnant and seeking abortions.
But bill sponsor, Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, said the current appellate-district system allows minors to travel from as far as Pensacola to Jacksonville to get judicial approval.
Meanwhile, the ultrasound bill (HB 1127) is similar to a measure that lawmakers passed last year. Former Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed that measure.
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