Gov. Scott plans to sign fetal protection bill; ‘viability’ bill up for vote
Apr 30, 2014
By GREGORY TOMLIN

TALLAHASSEE (FBW)—With only days remaining in session, Florida legislators have passed a bill that makes injury to a fetus in the commission of a crime a separate offense regardless of the stage of fetal development.

The House of Representatives passed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act (House Bill 59) April 11, and the Senate, setting aside its own version of the bill, passed HB 59 April 23. The bill is now on its way to Gov. Rick Scott’s desk for signature.

John Tupps, spokesman for the governor’s office, told the Miami Herald that Gov. Rick Scott looks forward to signing the legislation. “Gov. Scott is pro-life and believes that the lives of unborn children must be protected,” Tupps told the Herald.

Florida law already considered injury to a fetus deemed “viable” outside of the womb an act of homicide, but HB 59 brings Florida law into line with laws in two dozen other states protecting infants in the earliest stages of life.

HB 59 gained momentum at the mid-point of the legislative session, in spite of opposition from pro-abortion groups that believe the bill grants “personhood” to a fetus. The bill, however, specifically exempts those performing abortions from facing prosecution.

Even with its limitations, pro-life advocates have praised the bill because it recognizes the value of the child from conception. Bill Bunkley, president of the Florida Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, said he and other Christians had supported the Unborn Victims of Violence Act for several years as a step in the right direction.

An unborn baby does deserve to be protected in Florida as a separate person,” Bunkley told the Florida Baptist Witness. “This is another important step in the ongoing work in support of the sanctity of human life.”

What could be the strongest pro-life legislation in decades is also progressing rapidly toward a final vote on the Senate floor. At presstime, SB 918, regarding the termination of pregnancies, had passed a second reading.

SB 918, and its companion bill, HB 1047, both would change the circumstances under which late-term abortions could be performed. Current Florida law prohibits third-trimester abortions or those after 26 weeks of gestation when a child is considered viable outside of the womb. But SB 918 and HB 1047 change the definition of “viability” to include new advances in medical treatment that have kept premature infants alive outside of the womb from as early as 22 weeks.

The bills require doctors to use “reasonable medical judgment” and “standard medical measures” to preserve the life of a child—instead of aborting it—if the child can be saved with advanced medical care. Representatives passed HB 1047 April 11 in party line vote.

On April 24, Democrats tried to attach a hostile amendment to SB 918, which would have created conditions for the abortion of viable fetuses, such as if the child had a birth defect or was expected to succumb to a disease after birth. The amendment was defeated 22-14.

“That should give you some indication of how the vote will go,” Bunkley said, noting the outcome will likely be favorable.

Scott’s office has not indicated whether the governor will sign the measure redefining fetal viability, but given his record, he likely will. In 2013, Scott signed a law requiring abortionists to provide medical care to any infant born alive. In 2011, he signed legislation saying Florida would not pay for abortions as part of the new Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare.”

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