On Wednesday, the Florida House postponed a committee hearing for today on a controversial bill that would infringe on women's reproductive rights. Hopefully, the move is a sign that the Republican leadership is prioritizing the session's dwindling time to cope with the largest budget crisis in decades instead of sparking another round of cultural conflict.
The House Policy Council had been scheduled to hear a plan to require any woman seeking an abortion to first submit to an ultrasound. State law already requires the procedure for women beyond 12 weeks of pregnancy. But this would extend the requirement to the remaining 90 percent of abortions that take place in the first trimester.
Supporters, including bill sponsor Miami Republican Rep. Anitere Flores, cast the measure as promoting good medical practices. But make no mistake, it's not. It is antiabortion legislation that will insert the state between a patient and her doctor. It is designed to make abortion more expensive, burdensome and emotional for women — and also injects another hurdle in the process for sex crime victims.
Victims of rape, incest, human trafficking or domestic violence who wished to waive the ultrasound would need to produce documentation to prove the crime. So a girl who suffered incest would have to bring along a police report or court order before being allowed to refuse the extra procedure.
Last month, the House Health Care Regulations Committee approved the bill, HB 983, on a party-line vote. But the Republican-led leadership would be wise to simply let the matter fade away. Passage would assuredly lead to costly litigation.
Similar legislation passed the House last year and was defeated on a 20-20 vote in the Senate when seven moderate Republicans joined Democrats to stop it. So far, the Senate version (SB 1854), sponsored by Orlando Republican Sen. Andy Gardiner, has stalled.
At a time when the state has serious fiscal problems, this is an irresponsible sideshow. Women have a constitutional right to choose an abortion and the state Legislature should leave it alone.