TALLAHASSEE — Women would be required to get ultrasounds before having abortions under an antiabortion proposal that gained a powerful ally in the Florida Senate on Thursday.
Republican Sen. Dan Webster, the Senate majority leader, signed on as sponsor for the measure during the 2008 legislative session, which begins Tuesday. A similar measure requiring ultrasounds for abortions passed the Republican-controlled House last year along party lines, but was not debated in the Senate.
Webster's bill would require women to have the test, which uses high-frequency waves to produce images of internal organs, including a fetus. It would also require doctors to "allow the woman to view the live ultrasound images" unless she's a victim of rape, incest or human trafficking. Under the bill, a woman could decline seeing the ultrasound image by signing a form.
Tampa Republican Rep. Trey Traviesa has a similar measure before the House this year.
"It's important legislation, because we want fewer abortions," said Traviesa, who is close to House leadership. "Everyone agrees there needs to be fewer of them."
Webster, a consistent social conservative, could not be reached Thursday. A former House speaker, he has served in the Legislature for decades and is among its most respected members for a professionalism that enables him to work across party lines despite philosophical differences. This is his last year in the Senate due to term limits.
Critics say the ultrasound bill injects fear into doctor-patient relationships and pushes government into micromanaging medical care, as lawmakers did in the Terri Schiavo case, where a feeding tube was removed from a woman in a vegetative state.
"This is legislating medicine, which isn't the job of legislators," said Adrienne Kimmell, executive director of Florida Association of Planned Parenthood Affiliates. "It creates barriers and ties the hands of doctors to do what they think is in the best medical interests of patients."
Traviesa's House bill would also require ultrasounds for abortion, but goes much further, including making women wait for 24 hours to get an abortion. It also opens the door for more lawsuits, by giving parents who aren't notified of their teenage daughter's abortion the right to sue for psychological damages and allowing patients to sue doctors in cases of injury or death.