The very difficult decision over whether to continue a pregnancy or choose an abortion is supposed to be a private one between a woman and her doctor. But extreme antiabortion ideologues in the Florida Legislature continually try to elbow in, and this year is no exception.
Sen. Daniel Webster, the Republican majority leader, has introduced a bill, SB 2400, to require that women get an ultrasound before having an abortion.
There is no medically valid reason for this added step. Doctors already perform ultrasounds when medically appropriate. But the measure is being pushed by Webster and other abortion foes to make the procedure more costly and burdensome for women.
And this is not the worst of the measures. A companion bill in the House, HB 257, sponsored by Rep. Trey Traviesa, R-Tampa, is even worse. Beyond the ultrasound requirement, the bill would create a 24-hour waiting period that would disadvantage those low-income, working women who would have to forfeit two days of work in order to take care of their health needs.
Traviesa's bill would also make it harder for minors to get the permission of a judge to obtain an abortion without parental notice. There are plenty of reasons that a minor might not want to inform a parent about the need for an abortion, not the least of which is a potentially violent response. But Traviesa's bill would make the process far more challenging.
Perhaps the greatest irony in Traviesa's bill are the proposals to expand the ability of abortion patients to sue. Some of the same Republican lawmakers who have worked to shield doctors from lawsuits and large damage awards would now exclude abortion doctors. Any misstep in informing patients about their rights (and the legislation details a long list of such rights that have to be read orally) would put abortion providers at risk of a lawsuit. And the bill would remove the statutory limits on medical malpractice awards when abortions are performed.
The agenda of these legislators is not to promote women's health or to improve abortion services in the state. It is to burden and intimidate abortion doctors and clinics with onerous regulations and the prospect of being sued. Webster, Traviesa and other abortion foes have no appreciation for a woman's constitutional right to choose abortion. They are too busy trying to impose their fundamentalist ideology on others.