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Abortion bill's close defeat leaves a chill

Putting aside our personal feelings about abortion — and, yes, that's a tall order — we should all note something scary that almost happened in Tallahassee this week.

A bill that would have required a woman who wanted a first-trimester abortion to first have an ultrasound and sign a waiver if she didn't want to look at the images had already passed the House. This week, the Senate took its version to a vote.

Antiabortion conservatives who have pushed for this sort of legislation will tell you the ultrasound requirements that are now in a handful of states help a woman and her doctor make a more informed decision.

But what it really looks like is a barely disguised attempt to discourage and intimidate a woman out of a decision that should be her own, and a push to undermine the right to an abortion.

True believers might want to call it the End Justifies the Means Law.

A particularly disturbing detail of the bill would have exempted a woman from the ultrasound requirement if she is the victim of rape, incest, domestic violence or human trafficking — if she could provide documents to prove it. That means a restraining order, police report, medical records or court papers.

But we all know many of those victims never go to the authorities. And talk about the potential for further intimidating someone already traumatized.

But maybe that's the point.

Another detail: The woman getting the abortion would pay the $100 to $200 cost of the ultrasound procedure, even if it's medically unnecessary.

For some, not a problem. For a poor person, it could move the option even further out of reach.

But maybe that's the point, too.

By a hair's breadth — a 20-20 tie vote in the Senate — this bad-faith legislation was defeated Wednesday. (As a political aside, its demise saved Charlie Crist from having to answer the what-sort-of-Republican-are-you-anyway question that tends to surface when you're a can't-we-all-get-along kind of governor. Crist had not said what he would do if the bill landed on his desk.)

It's important to note here that some Republicans voted against it, and only one woman senator voted for it. No surprise it was Valrico's own Ronda Storms, she of the infamous anti-gay campaign when she was a Hillsborough County commissioner.

So instead of pandering for political points on an always-contentious social issue, seven Republican senators did their jobs and came down against government where it doesn't belong.

A woman "shouldn't have to go through extra hoops imposed by government to exercise her constitutional right," said Sen. Jim King, a Jacksonville Republican who pushed behind the scenes to kill the bill.

The legislative session is rolling to a close, and it has been equal parts frustrating and amusing to see lawmakers spend time talking about frivolous matters of offensive tailgate decorations or children in baggy pants.

How many times can we listen to ourselves say: Given the state of our state, you're wasting time with what?

Wednesday's defeat was something else, though, a critical vote from both sides of the aisle. This time, we can say the right thing happened in Tallahassee, even if it was very, very close.

Abortion bill's close defeat leaves a chill 05/01/08 [Last modified: Friday, May 2, 2008 10:13pm]
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