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Two more abortion bills headed to Gov. Rick Scott

TALLAHASSEE — With the passage of two bills by the Senate on Thursday, three antiabortion measures are now headed to Gov. Rick Scott. Among them is a bill requiring that women be offered the opportunity to see and hear a description of ultrasound images before undergoing an abortion.

Gov. Scott said he will sign the bills.

"I told everybody on the campaign trail that I'm prolife and I'm going to be a prolife governor," he said.

Lawmakers passed the ultrasound bill last year, but then-Gov. Charlie Crist vetoed it. That bill required women to hear the description on the ultrasound. This year's legislation allows a woman to decline the description.

After passionate and emotional debate during which several Republican lawmakers argued against it, HB 1127 passed the Senate by a 24-15 vote.

Sen. Evelyn Lynn, R-Ormond Beach, scolded her colleagues for spending so much time talking about abortion when there are more pressing issues.

"I will vote no on every abortion bill," she said during debate on the ultrasound bill, sponsored by Sen. Ronda Storms, R-Valrico. "It is the wrong thing for us to be discussing."

Lynn said she didn't come to Tallahassee to dictate values.

"I came up here to help put food on the table," she said. "I came up here to get people jobs. I came up here to protect people from the kinds of safety issues that fire and police take care of. I came up here to protect education."

Republican Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, agreed. "I'm prolife for me, and everyone else is on their own," she said. "I personally resent writing legislation that acts like I'm too stupid to confer with my own doctor."

Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, accused Republican lawmakers of being hypocritical for arguing that government shouldn't interfere in the doctor-patient relationship when supporting legislation aimed at the federal health care law, but then supporting the ultrasound measure.

But Sen. Andy Gardiner, R-Orlando, said the bill is about giving women all the information available to them before making the decision to terminate a pregnancy, even if it looks like the child might be born with disabilities.

"Just maybe, one time, that mother, that family, not just the mother, the family, maybe they see that ultrasound and they see a heartbeat and they see fingers and they see toes and they say, 'You know what? Wait a minute. I was just told all the things that will be a problem.' But just maybe they pause," he said.

Storms took exception to arguments that lawmakers shouldn't tackle moral issues. "The great questions of life are why you're here," she said. "These are the things that if you unzipped your heart, for most of you, it's what you believe to your core, whichever side you're on."

She noted that all lawmakers bring the sum of life experiences to their votes, and morals inform everything from decisions on protecting children from sexual abuse to insurance reform and policies that affect the poor.

She also acknowledged that lawmakers aren't always consistent with their votes.

"There's no question about the contradictory positions that we all take. I'm not ashamed of it," she said. "We all say we are for less government, except here. Or we're for more government, except here."

The Senate also voted 26-12 in favor of HB 1247, which tightens restrictions on parental notification when a minor seeks an abortion. Among other things, it requires young women who want a judge to waive the parental notification requirement to get it in circuit court rather than the wider-reaching appeals court. Supporters say it prevents teens from crossing the state to find a sympathetic judge. Opponents say it threatens the safety and privacy of young women in small communities where everyone knows everyone, including courthouse workers.

Sen. Alan Hays, R-Umatilla, who sponsored the bill, said 12- and 13-year-old pregnant girls don't make the decision to go to another jurisdiction for the waiver. Adults counsel and drive them, he said.

"I find it totally and completely repulsive," he said.

Earlier in the week, the House gave final approval to HB 97, which prohibits health insurance plans created through the federal health care law from offering coverage of abortion, sending that proposal to the governor for his signature. The House also gave the final thumbs-up to HB 1179, which proposes a constitutional amendment to ban use of taxpayer money for abortions. The amendment is likely to appear on the November 2012 ballot. It needs approval from 60 percent of voters to become part of the Constitution.

Times/Herald staff writer Michael C. Bender contributed to this report. Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Two more abortion bills headed to Gov. Rick Scott 05/05/11 [Last modified: Thursday, May 5, 2011 11:13pm]
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