TALLAHASEE (FBW)—Two bills providing clarification on Florida’s existing ban on third-trimester abortions have cleared committee hurdles that threatened to block their progress toward votes in their respective chambers.
Senate Bill 918 and House Bill 1047 both define the terms “reasonable medical judgment” and “standard medical measures” in a way that could further limit abortion in the state. The bills also redefine “viability,” as the term relates to the unborn child and improvements in medical technology.
HB 1047 cleared the Health and Human Services Committee in late March and the House Judiciary Committee April 4, placing the bill on the calendar for a floor vote. SB 918 cleared the Health Policy Committee April 1 by a 6-3 vote, but still must pass through the Senate Judiciary and Rules committees.
Following the approval of SB 918 in the Health Policy Committee, the office of the Republican majority issued a press release that said the bill “advances Florida’s protection of the unborn.”
The bill maintains the existing prohibition in Florida on abortions after 24 weeks (during the third trimester), but is significant for its requirement on determining fetal viability. Current law prohibits a late-term abortion if theunborn child is considered viable on its own after the sixth month. The new bill defines a viable fetus as sustainable outside the womb “through standard medical procedures.”
“With today’s medical advancements, children have survived outside the womb as early as the fifth month of pregnancy; however, current law allows elective abortions until the sixth month of a pregnancy,” the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami), said. “As the edge of viability continues to advance, so too should Florida’s protection of the unborn.”
Carrie Eisnaugle, president of Florida Right to Life, said SB 918 will “move Florida out of its outdated trimester-based system of law, which does not accommodate advances in medical science.”
HB 1047, the companion bill to SB 918, was originally filed by Rep. Janet Adkins (R-Fernandina Beach). That bill has progressed through the legislative at a more rapid pace. Like SB 918, the bill requires physicians to determine fetal viability based on available medical treatment, rather than determining viability solely by the day-age of the unborn child—the current practice used by abortionists.
Bill Bunkley, president of the Florida Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, told the Florida Baptist Witness both HB 1047 and SB 918 have momentum.
“The bills are both now moving, and this is an extremely positive sign just past the midway point in the 60-day session,” Bunkley said. “In past years, advocates of the legislation have had to deal with the bill moving in one chamber and not the other. But the fact that we had positive movement in both chambers is a good thing.”
Bunkley said groups like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union have registered their opposition to the bill, but have not spoken about the bills in official testimony.
“I think that is a careful public relations strategy on their part. I think they don’t want to be perceived as advocating abortion past viability,” Bunkley said.
Unofficially, however, pro-abortion groups are speaking out. After HB 1047 cleared the Health and Human Services Committee in the House, the Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates issued a statement saying the bill would force women into “heartbreaking situations.”
“This legislation attempts to insert politics into a deeply personal and complex decision that should be left to a woman, her family, her faith and her doctor. What’s worse, it would impose barriers on Florida women without regard for the unique circumstances that each woman may face during pregnancy. This bill dramatically narrows current health exceptions in a way that could put women’s lives and health in jeopardy,” said Sujatha Prabhakaran, vice president for medical affairs with Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida.
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