With Added Exemptions, Abortion Waiting Period Bills Slated For Votes This Week

Apr 21, 2015

Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami), left, and Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Mount Dora) are the bill's sponsors.
Credit Florida Senate/Rep. Sullivan's Twitter

A controversial abortion bill that now includes a new exemption is now heading to the Senate Floor, after passing its last committee hearing Monday. It’s also teed up for a vote on the House floor, despite continued opposition.

Virginia Frank is a mother and grandmother from Largo, and a woman who had an abortion.

“When I visited Planned Parenthood that day, I felt very pressured,” said Frank, during a hearing of the Senate Fiscal Policy meeting. “I felt very coerced. I believe they are a business to make money. I believe they claim to help women. I believe we are extremely distraught when we are in those situations.”

And, she says she regrets her decision.

“I have not been raped,” added Frank. “But, I am a survivor of incest. And, I have to tell you that being in that emotional state is the hardest thing to go through, at least from my perspective, it was an extremely hard thing to go through. And, I think if only I had had a cooling off period…where you can stop and think.”

That’s why she says she’s in favor of a measure by Sen. Anitere Flores (R-Miami), the bill’s Senate sponsor.

“Senate Bill 724 requires that the information that is currently required to be presented by the physician to a pregnant woman prior to termination of pregnancy, that that information be given 24 hours prior to the procedure, and that is essentially the bill,” said Flores.

But, speaking at the bill’s last committee hearing Monday, Planned Parenthood’s Leandra Little opposed the measure.

“I really feel that this is an attempt to put another burden on women, and it really does take away from a woman’s private decision with their doctor. What they cannot make illegal, they’re trying to make impossible,” said Little.

Sen. Gwen Margolis (D-Miami Beach) tried to put forth an amendment to allow the 24-hour waiting period be waived for cases of rape and incest.

“The bottom line is sometimes a woman has more of a problem taking about this to family,” said Margolis.

It was later substituted for new language by Flores that would allow for more exemptions. But, it comes with a caveat—as explained by the amendment’s House sponsor, Rep. Rene Plasencia (R-Orlando).

“This amendment is exempting women who were the victims of rape, incest, domestic violence, and human trafficking,” he said, on the House floor Tuesday. “As part of the amendment, in the statute, it says that they must present a physician’s copy of a restraining order, a police report, medical record, other court order, or documenting, evidencing that she is obtaining the abortion of what I just mentioned.”

Some lawmakers, like House Democratic Leader Mark Pafford, weren’t too thrilled with the latter part of the amendment, and asked if at least those victims of incest could be excluded—which Plasencia said he’d consider.

Others argue that if putting a waiting period in place is important for women, then doing the same should be acceptable for men getting vasectomies.

And, Rep. Michelle Rehwinkel Vasilinda (D-Tallahassee) offered that amendment Tuesday.

“If you have women thinking about abortions for 24 hours, I think men ought to be thinking about vasectomies for 24 hours,” she said. “I’ve heard this amendment referred to as what’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander. But, it goes much further than that. In my religion—I’m Catholic—it is a sin to have vasectomy. We are trying to codify in Florida statutes the idea of women reflecting on abortion and many of the members of this chamber believe that abortion is a sin.”

But, she was forced to withdraw her amendment as having nothing do with the actual bill. And, House sponsor,  Rep. Jennifer Sullivan (R-Mount Dora), says she believes in the virtues of her own bill.

“My reason for bringing this bill before you is simple, and that’s to empower women,” said Sullivan. “Empowering women to make an informed decision versus an unexpected, rushed and pressured one. From my own personal experiences, I’ve witnessed the pressure placed upon a woman, especially younger women, by their parents, friends, and spouse or boyfriend to make a rushed decision.”

The House measure is now slated for a vote Wednesday.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.