TALLAHASSEE(FBW) – Despite the postponement of a key bill that would restrict third-trimester abortions in Florida, another bill in the state legislature may curtail the practice by changing qualifications for those who conduct abortions.
Senate Bill 1352, which provides strict guidelines for abortion clinic personnel, narrowly cleared the Health Policy Committee by a vote of 5-4 on March 25. The bill had already successfully passed through two other committees. It is expected to receive a vote before the legislature adjourns in May.
Sponsored by Republican Sen. Denise Grimsley (R-Sebring), the bill requires an abortion clinic’s medical director to possess a state-issued medical license and have admitting privileges or a transfer agreement with a hospital “within reasonable proximity of the clinic.”
In that respect, SB 1352 is similar to portions of a law passed in Texas during the 2013 legislative session. Under that law, abortionists in Texas are required to have admitting privileges at area hospitals. That restriction, along with other elements in the law, caused one-third of the abortion clinics in the state to close immediately. Now, only a handful of the clinics remain.
Another bill, concerning the unborn victims of violence, will also receive a vote. The bill has been introduced during several previous legislative sessions, but has failed to garner support until recently.
House Bill 59 and its companion bill, SB 162, both called the “unborn victims of violence act,” will make injury to a fetus in the commission of a crime a separate offense. Florida law provides penalties for crimes against fetuses considered viable outside of the womb, but HB 59 defines “unborn child” as “a member of the species of homo sapiens, at any stage of development, who is carried in the womb.”
Though the bill specifically exempts the prosecution of an individual performing an abortion with the informed consent of a woman, abortion proponents are worried that it introduces a concept into law that one day may be used to prohibit abortion – the “personhood” of the fetus.
Amanda Allen, state legislative counsel for the Center for Reproductive Rights, said the bill was a “cynical attempt” to deceive the public into thinking conservative legislators care about women’s health issues.
“It raises the specter of personhood in the law,” Allen told the abortion rights media outlet RH Reality Check. “Putting the definition in the criminal code is a way to elevate the fetus in a way that’s separate and distinct from the pregnant women.”
The bill, however, does not refer to when life begins, but Ken Whitten, senior pastor of Idlewild Baptist Church in Lutz, said when “dealing with abortion, we must understand we are not just dealing with life legislatively, or even medically. We are dealing with life biblically.”
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